Interview with Alexandra Knickel
News for May
Dryad in Watercolor
Dryad in WatercolorBehind the Art
by Melissa Acker
Dryads are spirits bound to trees, so I when I found out about this month's theme I went digging through my reference photos until I found something I liked. By chance, my printer decided to run out of a random color of ink and so printed out my reference in black-and-white when I wasn't paying attention. No matter; it gave me a chance to experiment with whatever colors I felt like using!
This is a watercolor painting, so an initial drawing is almost always necessary. So let's get that out of the way.
After I stretched my paper, I got right to work. The background, middleground, and foreground where done in separate stages to keep the paint from spreading where I did not want it to. The browns and greys in the rocks are all complimentary mixes. I used either blue/orange combinations or red/green combinations. In the green area I added in spots of yellow (aurelin, which is strong enough to hold its own), and then sprayed it with my spray bottle to add some texture. The sky in the background was also thrown in.
The next stage involved adding texture and value to the different areas, especially the rocks. Again I used complimentary mixes, this time adding violet/yellow mixes to the darkest shadows in the background rock. While I used my reference for guidance, I planned on something a little more simplified, so I tried to limit the detail in the rocks. After all, they will not be the center of attention! The shadows in the green areas are another complimentary mix, of green and red, and mostly serve to give shape to the immense rock she's sitting on. I left the dryad and her tree blank for now, waiting to see how the background would develop a little more before I picked out a color for her and her tree.
At this point I wasn't happy with how much the rock in the background was insisting on throwing itself forward, so I threw a cold blue wash over the whole thing to push it back. I also finally threw in the first washes on the tree. I decided for relatively pale, neutral browns for the bark - and, again, these were blue/orange mixes. Every time I dipped my brush in the palette, I changed the mix a little bit to ensure I had a good variety of color.
I finally decided to start working on the dryad. I decided on a very pale local color for her, so that she will stand out against the shadows of the rest of the painting. I also added more detail to the tree. Most of the colors in the tree are reflected somewhere on the dryad's skin.
Lot of stuff in this step! I still wasn't happy with the background rock, so I added even more blue washes to push it back even more. In addition, I added a wash of yellow ochre to the middleground rock to bring it forward.
I also added more shadows and details to the dryad and her tree, and the rock in the foreground as well. This was the first step where I actually used my detail brush (I try to leave it as long as possible).
I had been dreading this step, but there's no avoiding it. It's time to tackle the undergrowth in that big green area by the dryad.
I made a big batch of dark green, using mostly winsor green and alizarin crimson, with a little bit of aurelin added randomly. I started adding in leaf and grass shapes in small patches at a time. Then, while the paint was still wet, I loaded my brush with very, very concentrated aurelin and went to work in the same area, letting the colors bleed into each other a little bit. The aurelin is strong enough to push back the green a little and it works. I repeated this, over and over, working in areas about a square-inch wide at a time. As I moved away from the dryad, I used less and less detail and less contrast.
I also added even more detail and dark shadows to the rocky areas, always trying to balance detail while keeping the shape subdued.
Very little needed to be done to finish the project off after all of that. I added some reflected green color to the underside of the dryad's leg and arms. I added some more defined shadows to the leaves and undergrowth that surrounds the tree. I also added more color into the sky, as I didn't like how bland it looked. Some concentrated turquoise blue, along with a little spray-bottle texture, fixed the problem nicely.
And there we are, all done!
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