Painting foliage from nature presents a lot of ambiguous detail to cope with. Even with considerably varying degrees of observation and drawing skills, all beginners often end up making similar mistakes in watercolor painting.
Oftentimes, the student will employ a lot of effort into ensuring that every branch, twig, and leaf is realistically depicted. Undoubtedly, such a task is overwhelming,unpractical and would inevitably lead to fatigue for any artist. At this point the student stops relying on observation and depends on his preconceived notions of what a tree is supposed to look like. As a result, colors are layered as they would be in a drawing or acrylic painting and turn into a muddy, opaque mess. If this doesn’t occur almost the painter has almost certainly finished the piece off in pure greens straight from the tube not only leading to an artificial appearance but a completely incoherent composition.
The solution to improving one’s ability to portray a landscape is to follow a methodical series of steps. Sketching is an important part of capturing the various species of plants found in the natural world. This habit makes it easier to accurately depict proportions in a painting. Often students start off by painting a large trunk and end up constrict the canopy to fit their compostion.
Once the direction of the light has been determined the student can paint the side facing in in warmer, more vibrant shades than the side that is cast in shadow. Another simple yet helpful tip is to always remember that the interior of a tree tends to be darker than the outer branches.
Watercolor is a highly expressive medium. Painting foliage allows one to exploit the powers of invention to the full. One of the most popular techniques is using a natural sponge to disperse the color. This stippled, broken effect is effectively portrays a lively impression of the distinct, feathery texture of foliage without looking too fussy or overworked. Layering different colors creates a variety of warm and cool greens. It is crucial, however, to use a natural sea sponge. The artificial versions are too smooth textured for applying paint and ultimately achieving the desired effect. One could also emphasize the foreground by using a flat household bristle brush to paint in the foliage with dry paint. Moreover, too much water will dilute the pigment and the marks will be blurred. The sponging technique is most accurate and effective when the paint is obtained striaght from the tube and diluted with a mere drop of water.
Experimentation is an integral part of developing expressive compositions, striving to capture what you feel about subject matter as opposed as trying to reproduce it exactly.