Screened Fig Tree

Today’s watercolor experiment:

It has been raining here for the past week. Yesterday’s experiment was a rendition of persimmon and fig leaves against a dark, wet background. Today, I painted another view of the rainy outdoors from a different perspective: through a screen.

Here is the reference photo:

Digital Photo: Screened Fig Tree


My first thought on approaching this problem was to find an appropriate crop of the photo, count the number of little squares on the horizontal axis and the number on the vertical axis, and reproduce it on my watercolor paper. After all, this is a common way that artists scale up paintings proportionally, from a smaller-format rendition.

However, I found the prospect too tedious to consider. I decided to make my squares by marking 1 millimeter markings on the orthogonal axes of my paper, and drawing parallel lines at each mark, on each axis. I went over the penciled lines with ink. Believe me, that was tedious enough.


I chose not to replicate the photograph, but rather create another design with made-up relationships of groupings of fig leaves. I drew a very rough sketch of these shapes and the tree branches.

As in many of my sketches, I first paint the leaves in yellow. I used two different yellows: a cool, greenish lemon yellow and a orange-tinted cadmium yellow pale. I painted them square-by-square, filling in partial squares when warranted. In a like manner, I painted the angled branches of the tree (with Van Dyke brown and yellow ochre). The fence was a bit easier, since it consisted of vertical planks. I used lamp black, neutral tint with additions of white or brown as I determined from the reference photo.

The background consisted of a number of different hues including shadow green, Hooker’s green, phthalo green, darkening some with neutral tint and lightening other with titanium white.

Watercolor: Fig Tree as seen through a screen

Screened Fig Tree
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


This was a lot more difficult than I expected. During my first pass of painting, I did not fill in each square with color. I did not like the outcome, as shapes (particularly, the groupings of leaves) did not appear well defined, as seen below.

Watercolor: Partially Screened Fig TreeI remedied this by painting each square to its border, even when it was internally divided by two different colors. I like the more final version of this sketch, as seen in the larger rendition above, with more the more fully-painted squares.

Stating this in terms befitting a mosaic, I like more tile, less grout.


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