Day 19- 30 Day Botanical Leaf Challenge

by Mindy on October 19, 2011

in Uncategorized

Colored Pencils versus Watercolor Pencils


Anybody who has met me in person knows I LOVE PURPLE! Even people who only know me from the internet know I LOVE PURPLE. I love flowering kale because of the purple, but also because of the soft green that comes with it. The shape of the leaves are big and bodacious. Even the veins are purple and the edges are frilly. The purple veins present a challenge to a botanical artist. I have found that when I put the veins on top of a painting, I often feel they just sit on top and are not integrated into the leaf, much like a tattoo sits on the skin. Most purple paints bleed when they are re-wet and once this happens it contaminates the green and then there is mud! I hate muddy purples! To keep the veins crisp and clear I started by using Faber Castel Polychromos colored pencils and drew the veins in with a mulberry purple. These pencils will resist water and do not bleed. I was then able to use my watercolor wet in wet technique to lay in the greens, purples and a hint of yellow ochre. Once I was done with the painting part I went into the painting with Staedtler watercolor pencils. The advantage to using watercolor pencils at this stage is water can be added in small increments to get a range of tones. I laid down a darker green by the purple vein and then with a small, damp brush gently created a gradated wash of color, working dark to light. The results are nice crisp, clean PURPLE veins. I using materials that make my work go smoother. I had so much fun on this piece that I have decided that when I am done with my leaf challenge I will revisit this plant and do a full painting. Stay tuned!

You can purchase this leaf in my Etsy Shop: BugsBeastsBotanicals

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

renatabarilli October 19, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Marvellous Mindy, 
thanks for the suggestion to do first veins. Interesting tip, never thought before
and   congratulation  for your costant work

Mindy October 19, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Hi Renata! You are welcomed. don't forget to let us all know when you finish your painting. I will make a link so others can see your postings! Hooray for you!

Laura October 19, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Hi Mindy
I have just discovered your blog…and just love it!  I NOW know why I always struggle with purple.  Every time I have tried to glaze over it I get mud!  Thanks for that tip.  I am going to try this method above.  I happen to have  whole head of the same ornamental kale in my fridge and have been wanting to paint it but not sure where to start.   I have just gotten into botanical painting…and seem to struggle getting leaves to look detailed and realistic.

Mindy October 19, 2011 at 7:38 pm

Hi Laura,

Great that you are enjoying my blog. There are lots of tips here for botanical artists. I hope you have wonderful success with your kale! Drop me note and let me know how it goes. Happy Painting!


Ps….. how did you find the blog?

Gail October 19, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Great Technique! I learn so much from you!
Why did you choose to go back into the painting with Staedtler water color pencils rather than another brand?
Thank you so much for sharing!

Mindy October 20, 2011 at 7:46 am

Hi Gail,

I like Staedtler because they have a harder point. Some of the other brands are chalky and they break easily when I am trying to get finer detail. I purchased a set a long time ago and really liked them. They are difficult to find as singles. I found one company that sells them in singles and I buy them 6 of one color at a time. I also find that they have a 3 very natural greens. The other brands, the greens are too green and look fake for botanical work. Here is the link to were you can buy them as singles:

Wrenaissance Art October 20, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Love this image with the dramatic shape and color contrasts.
Doing the veins in colored pencil, then integrating with w/c pencil post-painting is fantastic advice!
Re: purple washes "bleeding"–I've found that alizarin crimson worked wet-in-wet with greens not only bleeds, it actually REPELS the green washes, leading to some very odd effects. Is this just me? :-)

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