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The above is the beginning of a painting that I used a mixture of sand and gesso on to add to the texture of a painting.  I mix clean craft sand with white acrylic gesso and apply it to areas of my paper where I want to accentuate the texture. In the above image, you can see the mixture as foliage on the trees, not yet painted. In the lower portion, the lighter yellow, rough-looking areas are other areas of the mixture.  The light grasses along the bottom were painted with plain gesso, allowed to dry, and  painted over with watercolor. The gessoed areas usually appear lighter than the areas that are not gessoed. At this point, I splattered frisket and painted in some extra frisket grass blades along the bottom.

I am always studying Chris Carter’s loose value paintings for anything I can pick up. I noticed in many of hers that she created a path of darks for the eye to follow. I attempted to set the values in this scene’s foreground, here.  I was drawn to the way the darks wove through the wildflowers and other weeds.  I also began painting more grasses and green leaves in the foreground.

At this point, I decided what I wanted to accentuate in the painting. There was a long strip of light in the upper third of the painting that was blocked in by a treeline in the distance. There were also clumps of white wildflowers (not Queen Anne’s Lace)  that twisted their way to that light area. I painted the distant treeline and the leaves on the middle ground trees. This helped to act as a guide to balancing the foreground I had yet to do.

In this step, I added the flowers in the scene. NO LIE! These flowers were really there!  ( A big thank-you to Al for teaching me to be more aware of my surroundings!) Where I had to add light value flowers over dark, I used white goache and added yellow or violet watercolor to it. The clumps of white flowers were dotted in with gesso and a brush. The frisket was removed and I touched up the values to finish the painting.

  finished painting

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60 Comments

  1. Holy moly! Your finished painting looks like a tapestry. I loved reading how you used the various media to get texture in this painting. Really terrific!

    • Thank-you for saying you appreciated me telling how I used the different media, Carol. I hope, by sharing these things, the ideas will be there for others who wish to try them. It is tapestry-like. Thank-you for pointing that out! I’m chuckling because you have made me think this would make a fine design for a carpet bag, also. Big grin!

  2. What a contrast to your trick or treat! I love how you can shift from one style to the next.

    This painting has such detail and an ecclectic nature with the varied texture and color of the wildflowers and surroundings.

    I love the texture you built for the trees that were dropped in near the end.

    • I think that is the most fun, for me, anymore, Nancy; discovering ways to render images that offers up something for everyone. My students are so important and I strive for ways to share with them that allow them to soar! I, too, am a student of this media called watercolor and find it difficult to see the world around me in one way. Thank-you for your comment on texture. That is what I was seeking with this.:)

  3. Wow, the details in this one are astonishing.
    i like it

    • Oh yes, I kind of got carried away with the detail. I actually stopped, midway and studied that third stage with the dark values painted in and no flowers, thinking that would do, also. BUT, the flowers and their shapes drove me on. Thanks for this, Richard!

  4. this is really rich. you have a great command of techniques. i like the way you’ve worked detail from close up to middle distant ground. i wonder what might happen if the sky was worked with detail too? it’s the only area that is left as you initially worked it in the layers of process. i’m not suggesting you do it on this one. this looks great as is. i’m just curious as to what might happen to the over all look of the work if the sky area is approached in the same way as the fore and middle ground.

    i’m also curious about time. do you keep loose track of your working time on something like this?

    • Good question, Wrick. This has about 30 hours of work put into it. I am sooooo slow! I will prop a work up and stare at it, at intervals, and leave something for a day or two. I worked back and forth on the Halloween post and this one for about three weeks of evenings.
      Also, interesting question about the sky. I painted it, first, thinking I wanted it to serve as a back drop and not a point of interest. I concentrated, slowly, on trying to lead the viewer’s eye to the light and area two thirds up the page and to that patch of red on the distant treeline. The light was diffuse and soft that day, no shadows, no sparkle, no wind. Everything appeared stilled and at peace. Also, I’m still working on skies……. Thank-you for your thoughtful comments. You cause me to consider those active and moving skies of Van Gogh that are so luscious!!!! I will try it sometime!

  5. They’re a feast to the eyes! I like them all but moreso the last one.

    • Thank-you, Earthianne! That confirms it, then…..it was best to carry it to including the build-up of wildflowers!

  6. Oh WOW!! This is amazing, Leslie!! I would never have dreamed of using gesso as texture under watercolor! I am blown away by the beauty of this. When you added the white flowers with gesso, it really made it almost 3-D! My mind is whirling with all of the possibilities! Yipee!! 😀

    • Yes…it is fun Beth. It took me a while to get the hang of it as the watercolor lightens on it’s surface, but that creates textural effects, also. This is about my 8th or 9th composition using gesso. John Lovett http://splashingpaintblog.com/ even washes it in, watered down, to make a cloudy or foggy appearance around the edges of many of his paintings. I have tried following directions on how to do this but have not succeeded, as yet. If you can figure that technique out, let me know. Thank-you! 🙂

      • Thanks so much for that link, Leslie! I could spend all day there. 🙂

      • Isn’t he awesome? When my students ask about a good book on watercolor that is easy to follow, I recommend his “Getting Started” because it is short and easy to understand. He, also doesn’t explain in such a way that closes doors and he offers up all sorts of different things a watercolorist can do with the paint. 🙂

  7. So enjoy your process images, Leslie. And the finished products too. Lovely.

    • Thanks, Eva! This one was so interesting watching happen. I think I could have gone several directions with it after step 3.

  8. This painting really jumped off the page when I first saw it! My wife thinks your build up to the final work is really interesting as do I! The mediums you use are adding an extra dimension. Each stage of this painting is a painting. I’m scanning your technique as I type this. Beautiful landscape. Love it Leslie.

    • Thank-you, Keith. It was just a weedy, filled with brush, field that I rarely pay any attention to. I guess my vision is changing from having read much of what you and others post about the world around you. I always have fun when I teach this watercolor class that allows for the addition of other media. I should do more of this throughout the year.

  9. This is quite exciting Leslie! Although I love the finished painting I also really like step two and three and their wonder textural qualities. This experiement really works – the close ups are a joy to behold, I long to touch those textures:-)

    • Thank-you, Lynda! Me too, on the two and three! It almost looks like I could have put in a small ravine or creekbed in there. So many decisions! I will store that idea away. I have seen many finished paintings similar to the third step.

  10. Oh, Leslie. You SO make me want to paint! I can’t wait (maybe I shouldn’t?) until I retire. So many methods you use and experiment with. I love, Love, LOVE the final painting, Leslie. So gorgeous!

    • I forgot. You posted all those wildflowers last spring. These were spread all over this area of this overgrown field. The wildflowers were having a HUGE party. Thank-you, Kate. You would be great with watercolor because of your vision and compositional skills.All you’ll need is to learn some technique so you can soar!

  11. It is absolutely fascinating to read how you created this painting, and seeing the steps. Wow. The final painting has so much depth and detail and really is best viewed large. So beautiful. So inspirational!

    • Thank-you so much, Amber! I especially like that about “best viewed large”. This painting was really rather fun to build up.

  12. dear leslie,

    this is such a wonderful scenery! i can hear the bach’s “jesu, joy of man’s desiring” when i look at this watercolour painting.

    each time, you never fail to amaze me as i can feel the true joy of your heart through your paintings. it has a happy spirit, alive and vibrant.

    sorry for being away for so long. but i am back to my blogging once again.

    • Hi Marvin!
      I knew, somehow, that you were not gone forever and probably working very hard on bringing together another beautiful poem only to find out you have begun taking piano lessons as well. I wish, for you mountains of joy in that.
      Thank-you for this beautiful comment on this painting. I do think a little of my heart may be in this one. The quest for sharing the beauty of a field long left to its own re-growth. 🙂

  13. It took me forever to get to comment – I am sorry, Tuesdays are very busy for me.

    I think this painting is my favorite of yours. I also think that you have outdone yourself with it. Which is only a proper thing to do – we should try, always, to outdo ourselves and then we have a good chance to achieve something.

    Have you thought about putting your demos together in a some sort of a publication – a book perhaps or other media? I think this idea has potential.

    • You never have to apologize for being busy. I have felt the rush, lately, also. Thank-you for this wonderful comment, Alex. As this painting progressed, I really got hooked. Sometimes that happens and the work begins to answer the questions for me. That’s always fun.
      Book?I’m flattered. I don’t think my writing skills are up to par for that. I use some of these for handouts for my students, though. I just think it is fun to share a process, once in awhile, in case anyone wants to try it. No secrets with me as I consider myself a lifetime student. 🙂

  14. How funny,I was thinking this looks so textural, just like a tapestry, & Carol you beat me to it! It’s interesting to see the different stages & of course that’s really useful for everyone that would like to try the technique.
    I’m curious about what sizes you usually work? How big is this for example?

    • This one is 17″ x 13″, Sonya. I wish, now that it was a 22 x 15 but I pulled out a sheet smaller, fearing I’d not finish it in time for class. I have not worked larger than a 22 x 15, as yet. I have no studio space to accomodate larger at this time. I have the house space but would have to change so much and I am comfortable in my kitchen, at the table each night. Sink is there. Stuff like that. Thank-you for this comment. This was an absolute joy to paint.

  15. This was so much fun watching the process and description of this painting! I can feel how good a teacher you must be for your students.

  16. Hi Leslie. Absolutely love the finished painting! The details are sharp and my eye cannot help swimming through the colors. Interesting to learn about all that went into this one, especially the use of sand.

    • That sand and gesso really pushed this one into another place for me, Adam. I like that reference to swimming through the colors. Thank-you!

  17. Beautiful work Leslie. Thank you for sharing all the details as to how you created it.
    Fabulous!

  18. Stunningly beautiful!

  19. Wow! I’ve been away from your blog for too long. This is awesome, and I love seeing the step-by-step. So much work went into this, but it was totally worth it – how cool!

    • Hi Karly!!! Thank-you for visiting AND taking the time to comment. I imagine you are just now beginning to try to adjust to scenes such as this after years spent in the southwest.

  20. You never cease to amaze me! The end painting is quite the masterpiece! How you can do that is a wonder! I never have the patience or the discipline! Your technique is impressive. That being said, I am very much drawn to the initial photo on the top: the colors and the simplicity brings peace and harmony.

    • Thank-you, Isabelle. I don’t know that I am patient. I have adopted what a painter told me a few years back and that was that I was ready to have several going at a time. It doesn’t mean that I run from one to the other but it allows for those paintings that take more time to be set aside. So, while it may appear as I was patient, I was working on other paintings and considering what I could do with this next. Your botanicals may have to be treated this way?…allowing for you to absorb what you need to do next? Anyone who can muse and enjoys nature like you do has got to have a patience bone in them! 🙂

  21. I totally do not belong in this comment section…I’m a writer, not a painter, but you have such an incredible site. Truly, Lesliepaints, if I’d had you as a teacher, I may actually have tried painting. This is soooo interesting – to see the progression and know what you were thinking. Plus the bonus of your comments. The finished product is awesome. Now I’m totally impressed that I shared the question with you on the 3rd stage. Actually, I asked, how does she know to go on?

    • Oh yes, you belong here if you want to comment. There are several writers above your comment. I view all writers as artists and they paint with words. That is something I admire very much as I have taken classes and not been able to paint with words. I do read, avidly. Good writers always leave me with pictures in my head. I guess that is why I do this. You are a good writer. I actually went on with this one because it screamed texture and even though I liked #3, I went for the wildflowers. Thank-you, Souldipper, for taking the time to comment!

  22. Ah ha ! I like that idea! Several paintings going on at once. It reminds me of a movie I saw about Monet painting the haystacks. He had several easels set up outside, and was going from one to the other. mmm…

    • As long as you can stay “in the moment with a painting set aside for a day, you can go on to the next. At first it was a shift and I feared I would pass too much judgement when I returned to it. Now? I just tell myself the painting is resting. Have you ever set a painting aside overnight and awakened the next day and the paint appears different. Well, it is. Sometimes paintings I set aside finish themselves overnight and I am glad I didn’t mess with it furthur. Other times they only need a touch here or there. Sometimes I’m too tired and pushing myself on can ruin a piece. I am so glad I listened to that other painter!

  23. At first i could not see where the painting headed but as i read more your painting start to come alive, it’s really amazing and finally the finished work, breathless. Thanks for sharing the steps and the tricks. I know i can’t do as good as you did but it’s enough just to read how you do it. Thanks for sharing Leslie.

    • At the beginning, I wasn’t sure where this was going to go, either, Francis. 🙂 I know you could do this. I remember one you did with clouds and fog hovering over the land. Amazing. Thank-you for the “breathless”. I will savor that.

  24. I’m back, again. I was going to comment on your newest one of the water, but I was drawn back to this one.

    The reason I am drawn, is that I just loved the first “draft” as much as I love the final painting. Then I looked again at all the various versions, unfinished or not, I loved them all. That is so rare. Thank you, Leslie.

    • I thank you for doubling your commets up on this one, Kate. There are several comments about the stages of this one. I wish I could pull something like this off everytime I paint. I have looked at the stages in a different light with comments like yours. Even that first one could be a painting in a white out blizzard. It is almost as though this painting went through the seasons that this landscape experienced. Winter, sprinf, summer early fall, I think. Thank -you for your return, here! 🙂 I imagine what you see on your mountain is similar, but you have the advantage of much bigger views and even more drama.

  25. Very beautiful watercolor painting. I like the way you presented it step by step for someone to learn.

  26. It looks like it was a lot of fun but alot of effort, Great painting Leslie

  27. Wonderful watercolor painting Leslie, enjoyed it very much. Great work 🙂

  28. I really really like this painting. It amazes me that you saw that final painting in the beginning. It’s hard for me to see the final piece from a blank paper. Especially with so many layers. I like the depth the painting has.

    • With this painting, I was shooting for those wildflowers and whatever those brown cat-tail-like thingies are. They were all so beautifully scattered throughout the foreground. I had to get that down. I don’t always have a vision with my painting and many things often change and I move away from the reference or scene. In this particular painting, it was difficult to leave stage three behind, as I saw a neat ravine like image taking shape and would have liked that also. Thank-you so much for this informative comment, Littlelynx!

  29. Another beautiful landscape. I love this one; one of my all-time favorites. So much detail that blends into a wonderful scene.

    • I have no idea what possessed me to try this field of wildflowers. I thought the view was so beautiful and maybe, just maybe, I could use some of the different techniques we were using in watercolor plus class to create the scene. Thank-you, Yousei.


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  1. […] third week we talked about different ways to render trees. I introduced and demonstrated the use of liquid friskit, salt, saran wrap, scumbling, Pointillism, […]

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