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.
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.
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.
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!