Through the Willows, fluid acrylic and watercolor
by April M. Rimpo
Through the Willows
Fluid Acrylic and Watercolor
27" x 20" painting
with white mat and 35" X 28" frame
My husband stood on the bridge reading about the plants while I walked around admiring the lilies. When I got to the back side of the bridge and saw my husband through the willows I shifting from photographing flowers to photographing him on the bridge. You know me and color; seeing his orange shirt and blue jeans peeking through the willows with the beautiful color of the bridge just screamed out to me, "Take a picture, quickly."
I've always loved the variety of greens that I achieved in Poinsettia Tree so I decided to use the same approach combining fluid acrylic and watercolor. The series of images at the bottom shows the progression.
The left image is only masking fluid (which is really thinned down rubber cement); it covers areas where I want to preserve the white of the paper. I don't generally use this much mask but, when using fluid acrylic in a very wet-into-wet style, the paint is flowing like water over the surface of the paper and is difficult to control where it might run. I find mask necessary since you can't lift off acrylic like you can watercolor.
The right image below is all fluid acrylic. I worked in sections in an attempt to get some hard edges in the acyrlic to add texture to the leaves. Normally I do this by applying the acrylic to small areas, drying it partially with a hair dryer then washing off the wet areas leaving behind hard organic edges. However, I used a different paper (Fabriano Uno Soft Press) this time and was afraid the mask would stick to the paper surface after heating and tear the surface when removed. Given the amount of mask on the paper I let the acrylic dry on its own, putting small dots of water back into the painted areas in hopes of keeping part of the acrylic paint wet. Although this worked to a small degree I did not get as much texture as I originally intended. In the end I don't think the painting suffered. I like the surface of this paper and will no doubt use it again, but I'll need to do some experimentation to see how much abuse it can take.
Once the acrylic was totally dry I applied more masking fluid over the acrylic in places where I wanted to be sure I preserved the light colors. I often get so absorbed, reacting to what the paint does, that I forget about the pattern of lights and darks in my design. The mask helps keep me on track. From this point forward I paint only in watercolor.
In the two photographs below you see the addition of watercolor for the darker leaves. You may think it is counter-intuitive to use acrylic for the pale wash and watercolor for the darker leaves, but this is because I wanted a background that was fixed and not going to change. I could layer a variety of colors over the fluid acrylic greens and purples to achieve the colors I wanted in the front foliage. Putting blue-greens over purple acrylic make great dark green leaves. With watercolor over acrylic it is easy to remove watercolor and redo an area to get it right. The photo below left had only a few sections of leaves painted.
The right photograph was taken after all the leaves had been painted, the masking removed, and the turquoise blue bridge structure added. There is one tiny orange patch just above the upper bridge rail and to the left of the white area. That is a hint at the shirt my husband was wearing. I had placed it there to make sure I knew where the edge of his back was going to be. This acted as a visual barrier, keeping me from painting the wrong color where the orange shirt would be. After adding my husband I dotted orange and blue tones throughout the painting to make him fit into his surrounds. I also clarified the edges of some leaves.
Take a look again at the finished painting at top. In addition to the color scheme and the horizontal bands of the bridge rails, I love the dappled light coming into the painting in the upper left corner that leads you to my husband. Let me know your favorite parts of this painting.
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