It is the end of August and all the trees around here have a lot of foliage. So, for this exercise I worked from my own photographs and found an almond tree that I had taken a photograph of, as it had an interesting twist to the trunk, up by the castle. It was just coming into bud. I sketched it out in my A3 sketchpad.
I prepared two A3 acrylic papers, one with a mixture of burnt umber and dark ultramarine blue, the other with white and raw umber.
When they were dry I sketched out the basic tree shape onto each one. I worked on the light ground one first, having mixed up the same dark wash, and painted in the tree trunk and worked out, filling in the twigs and letting the paint get thinner and lighter as I did so. It was fairly easy to follow working in the way that a tree grows outwards. I kept the sketch next to me for reference.
Next, I worked on the dark ground with a light grey mix. This was, of course, trickier to do and rather challenging. but I found I got quite absorbed in it. I mixed the grey a little darker and lighter at times to try and vary around the twigs to add interest. I thought I wouldn’t like the end result but actually think it is much more interesting than the first one, a different approach has given an almost abstract feel to it which I find pleasing.
I think a combination of both methods would give the most pleasing effect. I would have liked to add more twigs by going over the negative space one with a fine dark brush but felt that would be ‘cheating’ on this exercise. The dark on light is a more natural and instinctive way of working but working in reverse takes you out of your comfort zone and makes you look at the whole picture.