My most recent painting, “Camellias in bloom” was definitely an exercise in patience. It also became an opportunity for me to explore endless green color variations because I painted a lot of foliage.

I took photographs of my overgrown camellia bush for a period of two weeks. When the first flowers bloomed, their vibrancy was exquisite and the center petals were more closed up. Later on, the bush had far more flowers blooming, but many of them were in stages of decay.

The digital process of creating a photo-layout for my painting took time. I worked from many photos and chose the best-looking camellias to be my stars. I pulled them closer together than they were in my photos. I made sure to add some buds and chose interesting leaves to fill in my layout.

The left photo was my basis, but the actual flowers were from the photo on the right, which was taken a week earlier.

The camellias were my stars or “heroes” and my goal was to have the background heighten them. This led me to darken the leaves in certain places. I found the blueness to be very interesting and even added purple into the green for another effect.

There were also many details that I eliminated, including speckled moisture on the leaves. I simplified water droplets, but left so many on the flowers that they kept me busy.

I saved considerable time by printing my layout lightly onto watercolor paper. I began by painting the camellia flowers first.

Masking was an important part of my technique. I cut out every petal and the larger droplets. For the smaller ones, I used liquid masking fluid.

I usually draw upon my frisket film to indicate the areas I plan to cut.

When the flowers were completed, I masked over them with fresh frisket film because I didn’t want the red and green colors to bleed together.

I put the pink palette aside and started a new palette that was mostly green. I saved the pink one for later on – because I knew at the end I would do some touch ups.

At this point, there was still frisket film on the red camellias and large leaves.

I completed areas in blocks and constantly found myself going back to rework older sections. The relationships between areas changed as I filled in more of my painting. I was continually darkening leaves and the transparent veils of color added richness. Some of the leaves had well over a dozen washes of color on them.

Although I used a lot of masking with the hero flowers, for the background I only masked the larger leaves. The delineations in the other areas were blurry and didn’t need sharpness.

When the background was completed, I eagerly removed the frisket on the flowers so I could see them again. My next step was to pull out my Prismacolor pencils. Those pencils were great for eliminating darker lines that happen as a result of using frisket film.

I can show this with two close-ups before and after I used colored pencils.

Colored pencil helped to soften the flower’s edge.

I did end up using the pink palette to knock back some of the white areas on the petals. I wanted the flowers to be more subtle, with less contrast.

I spent oodles more hours working over my painting with colored pencil and watercolor touches. But then I noticed it wasn’t significantly improving anything. If I kept working, my painting might become overworked and less sparkly. Finally I stopped and said, “Enough is enough!”

Then I scanned my image, which became yet another opportunity to spend countless hours fixing small details. I had to rein that in also. My main objective was to remove any spots of dust.

For stock purposes, I went ahead and created two paintings of my “Camellias in bloom,” and they were just different croppings of my larger painting.

During the time I was working on this painting, there was another magical surprise in store for me amidst the flowers.

I was having a haircut on my patio and my lovely stylist noticed a tiny bird’s nest resting on a branch. If she hadn’t pointed it out to me, I would never have seen it.

The day after I took this photo, the tiny hummingbird flew away.

I took many photos of that nest and even created another painting layout. This time, the camellias took a back seat to the tiny bird. However, when it came time for me to move forward to paint it, I hesitated. I decided I just wasn’t excited about revisiting this same subject right away.

I might paint that hummingbird someday, or maybe not. With distance the answer will come to me.

I’m already working on two other new paintings that I am excited about. I plan to paint whatever subjects intrigue me. My creative instinct tells me to follow my joy.

I end my camellia post with close-ups of the final painting.

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In order to make the concentric rings sharp, I used an exacto knife to score the paper.

Since I painted an onion, I felt compelled to do a tomato after that.

I continue to take stock of my life and my art. I began painting new images for fun last summer and tell that story with #57 TAKING STOCK OF ART AND MY LIFE – PART 1.

This is the first time in my career where I’ve been prolifically creating new art for my own purposes. Since last July, I’ve painted over fifty illustrations.

I’m also excited to share that DPI Magazine will be featuring my work for a second time. My post, #54 INTERVIEW WITH A FOOD ARTIST, will soon have a part two!

Recently, I moved 80% of my stock images from Getty to a partner company named iStock. This is advantageous, because now my work will be in two places. I’ll hope in time to see results.

My iStock images can be seen here: Judy Unger iStock

I have noticed that my recent paintings are “branching” into the fine art realm. I am enjoying garden and nature scenes, but the time involved with filling every inch of my painting doesn’t escape me.

Currently, I’m painting some camellias and am excited to share my painting in progress. I will probably finish it later this week.

I continue to paint new images for my stock library. A few of them I’ve already shared on prior posts. But since persimmons didn’t quite go with a post about apples, I have grouped them here. I will also indicate which images are digital combinations.

Now I’ll just let my images tell the story.

The advantage as an artist is that I am able to remove the brown blemished areas. This is my photo for reference.

I love the brilliance and translucence of that particular water drop resting on the highlight area.

These two berry paintings were originally for a job assignment. When the job was cancelled mid-stream, I went ahead and painted the illustrations anyway.

Having access to a tree with leaves and fruit was very helpful for me. I went ahead to put the autumn brown touches on the leaves, which added to the realism.

I love closeups, because they share the texture. The lighter spots were created by using liquid frisket masking fluid and a toothbrush, as well as a toothpick.

Believe it or not, I actually found myself eating pomegranates while illustrating them. The homegrown fruit was quite delicious!

It seemed strange to have blue reflections on these red seeds, but it added to the realism that way.

The decision to paint a shadow is sometimes a quandary for me. That is why I’ll create an alternate stock version without a shadow.

This was another digital version I created.

This texture required masking with liquid frisket.

This was another digital version I created by removing the yellow squash.

It has been interesting for me to create new medleys by combining many paintings.

I share another digital combination.

I surprised myself by doing another avocado illustration. I have my first one on Part 1 of this post.

The interplay of warm and cool was fascinating for me. The opaque highlight adds coolness.

A stock image, incorporating my new whole avocado with my prior cut half.

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Clicking on the painting below opens up a window to my leaf related stock images on Getty Images.

My most recent painting is named “Autumn Leaf Medley.”

It was definitely enjoyable to capture so many colors. I filled my palette with eyedroppers of dye from at least 20 bottles in order to create my painting.

My painting of autumn leaves evoked a poignant memory that can be found at this link: “CAN I KEEP THEM FOREVER?”

Below is an image of my painting in progress:

Collecting leaves in Southern California is not comparable to other areas in the United States where autumn leaves are prized for their spectacle.

But I didn’t have to hunt too hard to find examples of the season. I ended up being very inspired by the bland ones, such as the oak leaves. Even though they weren’t initial standouts, their interesting bluish tones really enhanced my painting.

These are some examples of photos that I used as reference for my painting:

Painting autumn leaves was something I have done before. In the 1990’s I had several assignments painting romance covers for Avon Books. To create stock images, I excised individual leaves from the book cover below.

In the 1990’s, I painted another leaf themed romance cover named “See You In September.” Below is the layout for that cover. I photographed my reference and followed my job instructions closely. It was helpful that a friendly art director did me a favor and mailed me a box full of leaves from Upstate New York. I set up my layout and even found a plastic stand-in for the red heart.

Before I had access to incredible digital tools, I used to painstakingly trace my reference photo and then transfer the drawing onto my watercolor paper. It was tedious and time consuming.

And below is my finished book cover. I was supposed to get the original artwork back, but unfortunately that never happened. I was told that it had been lost and I was paid a small sum as compensation.

I love the palette of colors in my newest autumn leaf painting. Lighter veins held challenges and I used a crow quill with liquid frisket to mask out those areas.

Touches of Prismacolor pencil worked really well on many of the autumn leaves. Lighter colored pencils inherently add coolness, which can be advantageous and interesting. It imparts a waxy sheen. For the speckled areas, colored pencil put down first added another dimension, and didn’t bleed when painted over.

I also especially savored painting crisp and subtle shadows with watercolor/dye.

Even though this painting required an investment of my time (about a week), Autumn Leaf Medley was fun to paint. I’m so glad I took the opportunity to create an enjoyable painting for myself!

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The title for this post has me humming the delightful Peter, Paul & Mary song by the same name. But my story about the overgrown lemon tree in my backyard does not carry a song. It does, however, accompany a painting that I finished last week.

The 60-year-old fence that surrounds my lemon tree is barely holding up. In the drabness of my patio, my lemon tree is thriving. It has weathered many years of neglect and remains in its original wooden planter. The roots eventually broke through the bottom and firmly took hold. Without being watered for a decade, it somehow survived.

Gradually, I began appreciating its beauty. I snapped pictures of its blossoms, which I later added into my painting. I marveled at the change when the green fruit hinted slowly toward yellow. And it became handy to have a lemon at my disposal whenever a recipe called for one.

I was now regularly noticing the bountiful fruit hanging on lovely textured branches. It inspired me to create a painting and I would like to share the technical aspects on this post.

I have more poignant memories about this 30-year-old scrawny lemon tree at this link: #581 LEMON TREE.

For me, painting is about seeing contrast, color and beauty. “Lemon Tree” began with a single photo as my reference. The scene was busy and crowded with dirty leaves. However, right away I was intrigued by the beautiful texture of the branches.The glow of sunlight peaking through the leaves was also inspiring.

My original Lemon Tree reference photo

The photo above became my framework to work with. I moved the green lemons on the right to the left side and cropped in the photo.

I have discussed my current watercolor technique on the last few blog posts. What was significantly different about this painting was my desire to “fill the page.” Normally, I paint cutout objects that float or have shadows against a white background.

It certainly took a lot of time to paint all the areas, but with a clear road map I was patient. Sometimes, painting large smooth areas can be much harder than going “inch by inch.” Normally. I utilize frisket film for every delineation. On this painting, I only cut frisket for larger areas.

Creating my “road map” photo-layout required about half as much time as the painting. I worked with Photoshop and used elements from many photos to achieve the composition I desired. I adjusted the contrast and filled in places that weren’t working for me.

My replacement lemon for the “hero.” (I wished I had washed it before taking my photo!)

Blossoms were added in a few places. I had older reference for that.

Below is my photo layout, which I printed out to look at while painting. Years ago, I used to make a tracing, but I’ve eliminated that step by using an inkjet printer to lightly print directly onto my watercolor paper. After that, I went to work using mostly Dr. PH Martin’s dyes, as well as Prismacolor pencils.

Photo Layout

Final Painting; it took me about two weeks to complete.

At this point, I have painted every area except the “hero lemon.”

I saved the “hero lemon” for last because I usually paint the darker areas first. Painting something dark against a finished lighter area runs the risk of bleeding. Painting against something dark could cause some color bleed, but the edge integrity is stable. To combat any color bleed, I place frisket film over painted areas when I do a light area.

Currently, I am using Fabriano 140 lb. hot-press watercolor paper. I was using Arches, but I noticed a lot more bleeding and issues with the handling of my paint. With the Fabriano paper, painting has been much easier.

I usually use the Prismacolor pencils over finished watercolor areas. But for this painting, pencils were ideal for the branch texture before putting down color. I simply defined the bark first using a dark brown pencil, and then I lightly painted over it afterwards. I lightly erased pencil areas in order to get the desired effect I was looking for.

I have recently run into a problem on my stock site regarding whether my work is categorized as photography or illustration. I realize that my illustrations have shifted into a far more photo-realistic realm.

I like to see my painting as a wonderful enhancement of my photographic layout. Even the process of creating my layout requires a lot of artistic skill and digital technical expertise.

In the past, I used markers as a preliminary step. My transition into digital media has been a wonderful exploration. I now see the computer as fabulous for designing my compositions. I am so glad that I embraced the technology that allows my art to be fully explored before I put the time in to paint!

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