During the last workshop we experimented with a technique that produces interesting results if it doesn’t drive you mad first. The idea is to start with a background wash, draw the shapes of stones, leaves and twigs onto it, then, with a slightly darker tone fill in all the negative spaces. More leaves, twigs etc are then drawn into the darker negative areas and the negative spaces around the new shapes is made slightly darker. This incremental darkening is done 3-4 times then the shapes are modeled, ink and pastel lines are added, colors splashed on and gesso washes are used to simplify areas.

The process is a lot of fun and often triggers interesting ideas. The example below was done as a demo on aluminium composite panel primed with watercolor gesso. The heavy vertical marks were masked up and painted over the top with more watercolor gesso then the tones were adjusted.

These next images give an idea of the build up using negative shapes.

Once you get the hang of it this can be great fun. The subject can be any reasonably defined object – tools, utensils, paint brushes, pencils – anything that can layer one over the other.

20 thoughts on “LAYERED LEAVES

    • Hi Renata,
      Thanks for the comments and glad you like the paintings – Good luck with it over the Christmas break.

      • Well, I had a go at this yesterday and although I didn’t like the colours I chose, I did enjoy the layering process and watching the picture build up bit by bit. I think I’ll do some more, using different subjects and colours (yesterday I tried the leaves and twigs).

        By the way, when are you coming to WA to run a workshop?

      • Hi Renata,
        Thanks for your comment.
        The negative painting/layering process is a lot of fun. It takes 3 or 4 paintings to become comfortable with it, but I find it is something that creeps into all sorts of paintings.
        I’d love to do another workshop in WA. We are tied up for 2012 but who knows, maybe the following year?

    • Hi Sonali,
      Thanks for commenting and glad you found the post inspiring.
      Enjoyed looking through your blog. I wonder how your Koi fish would go using that layered technique?

  1. Can you tell me when painting in the negative spaces, is this wet into wet. So adventurous for a near beginner like me but will have a go. Thank you John for all your generous blogs.

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