Drawing a German landscape – at least inland – almost always includes trees, often lots of them together. For some time, I have been trying to develop a way to do this in a semi-abstract style to depict trees recognisably and in a more interesting way, while integrating them into my own style. During a recent holiday with more than its fair share of rainy days, I used a cheap A5 pad of watercolour paper and some old Cotman‘s watercolours to explore this idea. Here are some of the results of this exercise. I scanned the work in and the spring green, in particular, has not come out well. However, this was an exercise and not intended as finished work. As such, it conveys an idea. There are several here that I could develop further and integrate into on-site sketches which include stands of trees.
I was inspired to begin this process by a painting that I had seen somewhere – the information about it I no longer recall but the image remains. Because I am not sure how original my own work is in relation to this painting – visual plagiarism also exists as a concept! – I will not publish this. Suffice it to say that it provided a starting point for my own work, which I imagine is what a lot of art does for perhaps everyone who ever picks up a pencil or paintbrush.
This is original and rather abstract – indian ink was used on a wet ground. I am fond at the moment of Rohring and Klingner’s Antiktusche in payne’s grey. However, this was sepia. Lines were then etched into the surface using a wooden skewer.
This looks like a lot of elongated pitchforks. It was inspired by the branch structure of poplar trees, which emerge hook-like from the trunk.
I like to combine watercolour with line work and some empty space. I want to create a skeletal foreground while taking the eye back onto the density of the forest.
This reminds me of a path through bamboos. It would benefit from more colour contrast. The original includes ochre and has more variety than shows up here.
This is hazy – only a suggestion of tree outlines. This would work when the trees are intended to be in the background.
This was an attempt to increase the abstraction. The background consists of random brush marks in dilute, transparent paint. I used the edge of a piece of plastic to create the suggestion of branches in the wet paint. The indian red watercolour is opaque which brings the trunks further forward – the wood remains translucent and relatively airy. Quite like this effect – not sure about the indian red, though. Will explore this further.
This time, I stayed with the semi-abstract approach and drew tree and trunk outlines onto a transparent ground of greens and lemon yellow. I used a darker blue-green mix with a dry brush to create a sense of contrast.
To escape the greens, I used a pale, translucent ochre wash and created elongated shapes from it using a darker wash. As an idea it could be developed and integrated into a larger image. It does not really work on its own. Creating more obvious shapes through utilizing negative space more deliberately could be tried.
This was created using a printing technique with acrylic paint. This technique is essentially decalcomanie. The paint was left over from something else. I applied paint roughly to some torn paper shapes and then printed the shapes onto the watercolour paper. Applying light pressure to the paper shapes for a few seconds and then lifting the paper off carefully produced random colour and texture. I then drew around them with a fineliner to create tree shapes and added an outline for some contrast. Not sure that I would integrate this technique into a drawing, certainly not while drawing en plein air. However, the technique is fun to use and the outcome always unpredictable – which is part of the fun. .
Lastly, After deciding to invest in some grown-up watercolours (Daniel Smith), finally, I understand what all the fuss is about. The paint is wonderful – the colours flow into each each to create the most marvellous colours – it seems to be very difficult to make mud! – and some of them granulate beautifully. I am sold! The tree trunks here were painted with indanthrene blue and dilute quinacridone gold. The marks on the tree trunks were created variously with salt and clingfilm (saranwrap). Am exploring further…