Another Stab At It

I spent a lot of my day trying to conquer the shadings of green of the unknown succulent (hereafter known as U.S.).

I applied the principles of shading I read about in John Ruskin’s book, Elements of Drawing, by drawing straight lines rapidly and at varying angles to each other, to create a cross hatching. The greater the density of lines, the darker the shade. The problem was that the areas to be shaded were surrounded by white borders of the leaves. Therefore I had to be very careful with, not only where I started and stopped my rapidly drawn lines, but also the gradations of shading within the small areas. Here is a record of my efforts:

Pen and Ink: Succulent Leaves Exercise

Succulent Leaves Exercise, Pen and Ink
5.5″x8.5″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Paper

Today’s watercolor exercise:

I used a smaller format paper today (9″x12″) and chose a top view of the U.S. to depict. This aspect displayed some degree of symmetry. Here is a cropped photograph of my subject:

Photograph: Top View, Unknown Succulent

Top View of Unknown Succulent

After sketching the leaves with an HB pencil, I painted the highlights with lemon yellow:

Watercolor: Unknown Succulent Top View Stage 1 - Lemon Yellow

Unknown Succulent Top View, Stage 1 – Lemon Yellow

I tried to match the darker green colors in the shadows with the paints I had in my box. I decided that viridian green and terra verte were a good fit.

Here is a completed underpainting using viridian green to color the bodies of the leaves:

Watercolor: Unknown Succulent Top View Stage 2 - Lemon Yellow + Viridian Green

Unknown Succulent Top View Stage 2 – Lemon Yellow + Viridian Green

I don’t know if terra verte is by nature a less saturated pigment or if the brand I have uses less pigment than normal, but even with globs of paint on my brush, I just couldn’t get a dark enough application to achieve the tone I wanted. I wrote about this before (Terra Verte and the Earth Tone Sunset).

Since terra verte didn’t give me what I needed, I resorted to my old standby, Hooker’s green. This is a dark pigment that I thought would give me the dark shades I had in mind.

The highlights that I painted as lemon yellow could not remain yellow. However I was not satisfied when I added phthalo blue, which normally gives me a very pleasing result. It was too dark. I blotted up this combination and found that a touch of the Hooker’s green gave the yellow the light green that was almost what I was looking for.

Here is my final composition:

Watercolor: Unknown Succulent Top View - Final

Unknown Succulent Top View
9″x12″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


Once again, I did not seem to capture either the glowing greens of the highlights or the deepness of greens in the shadow. The composition seems to be held together by the preservation of the white spaces of the edges of the leaves. But this is an approximation as well. In the photograph, one can see that the edges of the leaves are not a solid white, but a grayish fuzzy line indicating an almost serrated edge.

While the coloration in the photograph indicates depth, the colors in my composition are, for the most part, flat.  I’m not sure how to proceed to be able to correct this. Closer observation? Color shading exercises? With work, I hope I’ll figure it out.

Leave a Reply