Art of painting bush from a photo

Art of painting bush from a photo:

Photo of lake

Photos of small lake and surrounding bush.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This small African lake scene was on a Kendal farm, on the East Rand, Transvaal. You can’t call it a dam as such, because strangely enough it’s not in a valley, it’s on top of a hill.

 

Some years ago a surface coal was mined here, creating a huge deep hole and in time it filled up with water, making it a wonderful place for wild birds to make their nests in the reeds and trees surrounding the small lake.

The farm now belongs to Kendal power station. But at the time of taking the photograph, family owned the farm and often took time out picnicking, fishing, birding and boating here.

As usual exploring with my camera while the family picnicked, I quietly picked my way through the trees and bush to the opposite side of the lake until I came across this beautiful tranquil scene within the reeds and undergrowth, where wildlife activities occur without the intrusion of humans.

When deciding which photo to paint for you, I thought this photograph was too crowded with detail to actually paint. But then been who I am, accepting challenges, thought it was a fascinating scene with the tangle of twigs and undergrowth. I like portraying leafy scenes. I want people to see what South Africa countryside looks like. Feel like they are in the bush too, with me, experiencing what I’m experiencing.

Watercolour of bush and reeds.

Watercolour painting of bush around the small lake.

Now that the painting is complete, can you feel the reality of the bush? And can you compromise your artistic training and forgive me for painting such a busy composition?

How I painted the bushy reed scene:

  1. I must admit I started with rubber masking liquid to reserve the detail of the tangled twigs, reeds, background trees, weeds and shimmer on the water, so that I could paint the background in freely.
  2. When the masking was dry I sprayed the watercolour paper both sides.
  3. Working quickly I brushed in the sky and background trees, dropping in different colours so that there would merge effectively.
  4. By the time I reached the reeds the paper was drying, so I was able to give the impression of grass and reeds.
  5. When I had to start on the water, I re-wetted the paper to create blurred reflections. This created a smooth restful area within the busy composition.
  6. Then I filled in the main tree on the left, dropping in different colours in the hope of giving it bark authenticity.
  7. After the paint was dry I rubbed off the masking and filled in the detail colours. Been a cool summer scene I made an effort to incorporate warmer colours to give it more emotional appeal.

Standing back I accessed the painting to see what I had created. And interestingly, as evening approached I saw how the painting took on another atmospheric dimension. I knew then it wouldn’t ever be boring, always fascinating in its own way, no matter what light the watercolour was seen in.

After also reading another of my bush demos, I hope you try painting bush too.

Bush Demo

Photo of bush demo

Photo of South African bush on the Springbok Flats.

This photo was taken in the bush, on the Springbok Flats, a farming, game reserve district, north east of Pretoria, where we have been spending time with our son. Since he has a website (‘Long Day Safaris’) he wanted to experiment with taking videos for his cycling blogs. Just before leaving the house he said I should also take my painting kit.

That is how this photo demo came about: First he took a video of me painting in the bush and then I took videos of him cycling in the bush. We had a grand time taking videos, something we hadn’t ever done before. We sure had lots to learn!

So why isn’t the video included in this blog? Well … in the past, my voice on tape recorders sounded ghastly, very different from what I normally sound. Apparently things hadn’t changed, my voice still sounds pathetic!

And what about the painting I did for the video? Well that was a disaster from the start. When you paint outdoors your watercolour paper dries quickly, making it hard to spread your washes. The situation is somewhat intensified and challenging when the weather is windy, as it was that day.

Placing a sheet of wet velt or wet material under your watercolour paper and spraying your paper both sides prolongs the drying time.  Since I had forgotten my velt at home, I should have taken a wet dish-clothe instead from our son’s house.

I’m used of doing demos in front of people and doing location fieldwork. That’s no problem, but painting for a video was a new experience. Been action people, we didn’t waste time discussing the possibilities of how to go about it, hoping that we would learn from the experience. Setting up my camping chair and paint paraphernalia was done quickly, but once started I didn’t know if there was sound, if I should talk or not, what angle was best, etc. This made me rather nervous.

Talk about bungling, I started by painting in the blue of the sky. Leaving white areas for the clouds, naturally this created sharp-edges because of the dry paper. So I had to work quickly, rinsing my brush and blurring the sharp-edges, especially the underbellies of the clouds. That wasn’t so bad, but when it came to painting the trees and bush it was another matter. Because I couldn’t spread the paint, it looked like sketching. It was very frustrating not been able to get the effect you want.

The effect of South African bush is unique. I love the profile of the trees with their gesturing umbrella shaped canopies. To get the full picture, the bush also hosts briers, khaki-bos and wild seeds waving in the breeze. The contrast of colour in the winter is beautiful. Well to me as an artist it is anyway. The grass is straw coloured and light compared with the green and russet colours of the trees and bush.

With the paper so dry, it wasn’t easy portraying the tree with their nobly twisted filigree branches and leaves. Oh well, I had to keep going because the video was still rolling. Pressing on was even more embarrassing! Instead, here is a watercolour I did later back at the house.

Watercolour of South African bush

Watercolour painting of South African bush.

Love to know how you coped doing videos for the first time. And what program did you used to put it on your website. Our son had problems converting his video to MP4 format, to be able to put it on his webpage. Well you don’t learn anything unless you try doing it, hey!

Heron Nature Trail

Heron nature trail in the Vrolijkheid reserve:

Vrolijkheid nature reserve is situated between Robertson and  McGregor in the Cape. The reserve is close to the little quaint town of McGregor and has two main trails and dams.

  • We did the Heron Trail. Erected along the trail are placards giving descriptions of plants and wildlife. We saw many wild birds and even a tortoise from one of the bird hides.
  • The Rooikat trail is much longer. At the beginning of the trail there is a stone wall (built between two farms over a hundred years ago).  Along the trail you will come across Klipspringer Gorge and later perhaps you will see baboons in the hills.
Photograph of Heron Trail

Shrub land along the Heron Trail

The Photo: I took many photos and this photo and demo is of the shrubs on the way to the first dam. I thought the dark bush silhouetted against the blue of the surrounding mountains beautiful. This particular scene captures Karoo-like shrub, which I thought quite appealing.

Watercolour of the Heron Trail

Watercolour of the shrub land along the Heron Trail.

The demo:  The photograph looks somewhat dark, so I reduce the amount of shrubs and  lightened the ground area to give the scene some contrast. The photo is rather cool in nature, so I incorporated a little warmth to give it a little more emotional impact. If the painting (A5) is viewed from a distance the undergrowth doesn’t look so spotty because I reduced detail wherever possible.

South Africa is a beautiful country. So many lovely places off the beaten track to visit.