We are reluctantly back from a fabulous few days in New Orleans where we stayed with some good friends at the fun Creole Gardens B&B. We saw art, history, architecture old and new, terrible destruction and rising hope. We heard great music and fascinating, sometimes heartbreaking, stories everywhere we went. We ate po’boys, massive muffulettas, andouille and boudin sausage, gumbo, and crawfish and covered ourselves in white icing sugar from the very excellent beignets from Cafe du Monde. We met wonderful people, visited the excellent Insectarium ( nice bugs !!), criss crossed the great Mississippi on the ferry and travelled the clattering streetcar, whose routes we explored from top to bottom and all things in between. We walked till we could walk no more, just to fall into a bar, drink plenty of hurricanes and fall into bed. Despite Katrina’s long shadow and the oil, it’s a great, unique city of laughter, spirit and optimism. We will be back.
Meanwhile back at the drawing board I have been working on my lovely Croton leaf commission for some 3 weeks now and after a few days away from it (always a good thing) have added the final tweaks. I don’t blog about commissions until my clients know what they are getting.. It would rather spoil the surprise if they were treated to a blow by blow account! But this is now finished, approved and will be on its way tomorrow. My client and I share an admiration for these leaves, their twists and turns and colour variations are seemingly endless.
Just a few of my sample leaves from Leu Gardens.. they do have lots of crotons!
Back in July I started looking at various crotons and sketching and making colour studies before embarking on this large piece. It is a larger than life single leaf on full sheet watercolour so approx 25 inches high, which requires a a bolder approach and bigger brushes, just a bit different from 2 inch bees!
Drawing croton leaves is wonderful practice for getting the flow and shape of leaves
More colour studies
Colour trials in sketchbook and on different papers. There is a problem with painting green and red leaves because if you are not careful, especially with watercolour you get mud. Red and green are complementaries and will neutralise each other.. not really what you want!
Larger scale trials
On to working on some larger versions, to get the colours and patterns sorted out and again try some different surfaces. Yes I am a messy worker!
I did start one full size painting on a rougher paper (See below) but decided against it. It just wasn’t working well for what I wanted. It was on Arches cold pressed.. nice for some things but not quite right for this occasion, but it helped sort out some shapes and was a good trial for the colours.
The Final Piece…(as much as anything is ever final!)
I decided to work on full sheet Arches 140 lb, unstretched. It’s a light weight paper but as I am not going to be working very wet it won’t be a problem.. I work on the “wrong” side which I prefer to the “right” side.
I started at the top.. hoping and praying to keep everything clean! Its my biggest worry and most likely accident
Next stage the greens and the pattern on the lower leaf and darkening of shadows etc.
Below I am almost there.. this is the stage I left it, just over a week ago. This is the danger zone for me as I really really want to go on fiddling around which can be fatal. You can over-do everything and knock all the life out of a painting so easily.
So after a week away from it I just worked on a few areas of highlight and shadow.. I am sending it tomorrow and can hopefully keep it clean !!
Isolated from the plant these leaves have great presence and it will be an imposing piece when framed up, to a size, I guess, of about 3.5 to 4 foot.
It has been with me for 3 weeks now and I am thinking I may just do another one!