Art of painting bush from a photo:
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.
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:
- 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.
- When the masking was dry I sprayed the watercolour paper both sides.
- Working quickly I brushed in the sky and background trees, dropping in different colours so that there would merge effectively.
- By the time I reached the reeds the paper was drying, so I was able to give the impression of grass and reeds.
- 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.
- Then I filled in the main tree on the left, dropping in different colours in the hope of giving it bark authenticity.
- 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.