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I began with this, a toned piece of masa paper.  You can learn how to prepare this toned paper, here.

I did a very limited drawing to define the perspective of the three pear trees and how the fence diminished into the background. I then painted my first washes of driveway and grassy area. I used several colors of greens and yellows on the grass and red, yellow blues to color the blacktop. Multiple colors applied wet-in-wet help to create a glow. The grass and blacktop would appear flat and more like a coloring book had I not used several colors.

In the next step, I painted the cerulean blue sky. Upon completing that, I noticed the driveway and grass looked washed out and re-painted both of them, darkening as I went. I also painted the first wash of shadows on the fence. I  painted the dark area of the woods behind the fence and under the trees with a combination of sage green and burnt sienna.

The next step was the most tedious part of the painting. I intended to use gesso and a sponge to blot in the white flowers these trees would eventually have and could not imagine painting in every little branch through the sponge marks of gesso, so I took the time to paint the branches from what I could see of them. I used burnt sienna, prussian blue, new gamboge and olive green for the branches and trunks of the pear trees. I used olive green and sage green for the leafy forms I added in an attempt to begin to define the values in and around the leafyparts of these trees. I also fed in light washes of prussian blue and permanent rose for the warm and cool backgrounds I saw in and out of the blossoms on these trees. In short, I was attempting to define the areas of color that would peek through the gesso, once applied.

I then took a thirsty sponge (one that has been soaked in water and squeezed to get all the drippiness out)  and dipped it lightly into gesso and blotted it on scrap paper (to take out big blobs) and began blotting in the white flowers on the trees. I was careful to select a sponge that would create the kind of texture I wanted as sponges vary.  This took some time and a great deal of patience as I had to keep dipping and blotting to prevent large blobs of gesso from being applied.

  finished painting

To complete the painting I painted in the branches of the woods in the background with a rigger and color mixtures of burnt sienna and the greens and blues I had used in the rest of the painting. I worked my brush in and around the gessoed areas to define the shadow areas of the three trees and applied white gouache to the lighter areas of the split rail fence.  The grass required another touch up of yellows and greens as it appeared washed out again after I had worked on the back ground and shadows within the trees.

This is a scene to the east of the driveway of the place where I plein air painted last summer. You can see them as you come up the long driveway I featured in this post here titled “Coming Home”.


  1. They’re beautiful, Leslie! I see many of the driveways back home lined with these flowering beauties. Thank you for bringing me home for a while.

    • They do seem to be driveway liners as well as those trees on the islands in mall parking lots around here. Spring is the only time our parking lots look at all inviting. 🙂 Thank you for your comment and visit!

  2. Wow! talking about making it pop, the colorful drive with these white popping buds make the painting for me. Beautiful!

    • Thank you, Ryan. Sometimes these trees look like they are popping out all over if the wind doesn’t get to them first. Ha! 🙂 Thank you, as always.

  3. and the road is purple? haha~~~

    • I couldn’t make it yellow or I would be stealing the “yellow brick road”, Summer! 🙂 Thank you!

  4. Knowing what to add and what not to add. Knowing when enough is enough. Knowing how one colour will turn on a light. Knowledge in capable, confident hands. Well done.

    • OK, now I am blushing. Do I dare fess up that most of the time I feel I am painting in the dark? In fact, there has been many a time, while painting, that I can hear Al Pacino saying, “I’m in the dark here!” (from “Scent of a Woman”) You make me feel good and I thank you, Amy.

  5. You always amaze me, Leslie. Each stage seems beautiful and complete in its way and the final product a gift. Lovely! I just love this one. It’s peaceful, among other things. Nice! 🙂

    • Their property is peaceful and like a little peace of heaven on earth, Jamie. Thank you for pointing out the stages. I rather like the colors in that fourth one down and it has me wanting to do a scene with bare branched trees again. Thank you, too, for your support.

  6. The steps show how far you can travel further even after feeling complete at some stage.. the final version competes with the previous ones! The masa has complemented the texture needed for this work Leslie!

    • Oh, you are so correct, Padmaja. I can’t tell you how many times I have opted to stop on a painting just because I liked what was already there. I think that has a lot to do about being able to divorce the reference material and go with our gut feelings. I just mentioned to Jamie, in the comment above, that I liked what was happening on that fourth one and would like to revisit this subject and try a bare-branched version sometime. The masa IS the best helper! Thank you!

  7. This is so beautiful, Leslie! You are able to dance with trees so well. I have no patience for all the detail that you seem to do with affection. I loved reading the steps you took, while studying the art. This is truly wonderful!!!! 🙂

    • I know what you mean about detail, Beth. I think I sometimes overdo it and will always have to challenge myself to loosen up. Ultimately, now, I think I need work in lost edges. I have worked hard, practicing softening edges and now must actually take the plunge into losing them. My vision is lacking in this area, I feel. Viewing your work helps me! Thank you for your support and for taking the plunge to create your own beautiful work on masa!

  8. These flowering pear trees are so beautiful. I enjoyed reading about your sponging technique to complete the flowers. And I love to marvel at what you create, Leslie.

    • I like marveling over your writing skills, too. Our paths are not so separate. In fact, I tried writing. 🙂 Oy! ..was I not good and every sentence was a struggle. I couldn’t paint a thing with words. I decided for the path of joy as this is not a struggle. HOWEVER!!!! I LOVE TO READ. You writers rock! Thank you for this comment, Gayle.

  9. I visited the Coming Home blog again, Leslie, and as I said then I love to see roads as a part-subject in paintings , in fact I have one as a Wallpaper on my PC, “the many roads we travel, but the best is the one leading homewards” … Seeing the finished watercolour, after watching the various stages and following through your words adds another dimension. The lovely view of such splendid trees must make the journey home so special, a driveway to be proud of… and one which fills me with envy…but saying that though your talent I can now ‘see’ it too. Thank you for sharing . xPenx

    • Oh I am so glad you spoke of the road home, Pen. I agree with you. If I may be a little wordy in my reply as I wanted to touch on this in the main part of my post and chose not to. I received the reference photo of this scene from the owners. It included the driveway. I could not do the scene realistic justice for them without the road and it is in such a position to create an incorrect shape, compositionally. Had I made it flat and black? It may have been an eye sore. I opted to include it and make if colorful, carefully choosing my colors so that it would read like black top and appear interesting. There are some viewers of art that do not mind the disruption to composition, such as you and for sure the owners of the property. It manages to portray yet another story. How easy it is for we artists to try to be correct ALL the time, forgetting we have the gift of creative license and the ability to make something mundane appear a piece of the whole. Thank you for your comment about roads and for continuing to visit here.

  10. While the “last” is brilliant, I thought some of the other stages stood quite tall on their own! Really like how each stage continued to add and enhance, though.

    • I agree with you. I was really into that fourth stage where I had painted the bare branches. Had I not already added some leafy forms in the shadowed areas, I might have struggled even more and changed the grass and gone with a late fall scene, all leaves gone. Thank you, Bbrasseaux!

  11. I really like this idea my friend,
    it certainly achieves a high standard
    once the painting is completed…

    You are a real talent Leslie

    Androgoth Xx

  12. It’s always so fascinating to see your workflow through your paintings… and always with such unique and amazing results..

    • You have helped me, indirectly, through your images, Brian. Some of the things that I know you have done digitally helps my vision when I stare at my paintings. Sometimes it is an exagerrated value or the way you have captured light. Thank you for this comment.

  13. This painting is magical! Truly magical, Leslie! How do you do it? It’s not just technique and tools, it is the vision and the idea that makes this magic!

    • Thank you for that magical part, Alex. This still isn’t the vision I had but someone (I think my drawing teacher ) said, “Sometimes we need to accept what might be believable and move on. ” I think I follow that a lot.

      Your question? I think I can answer that. I have SO MUCH to learn. The other day it hit me that I have been practicing techniques, studying varying approaches to composition and getting to know my colors and different papers. I can’t use all the techniques on everything but there are times when a subject requires one of them. Out of all my choices for white flowers, the gesso seemed the most useful for this scene. If I hadn’t spent the time exploring all these different things, I have less resources to create. Does that help? You ask GOOD questions. Thank you, Alex. 🙂

  14. Lovely, Leslie – personally though I’d have been scared witless to add the gesso!

    • HA! I WAS scared witless. You can not believe the times I have tried to wash in gesso like John Lovett here: and thrown them away. This way of using it was easier but still scarey! Those are the times I have to say to myself that “it’s only a piece of paper” and go for it. I still can’t wash it in like he does it. See? Now you have given me something more to work on. Thank you, Val!!! 🙂

        • Val
        • Posted July 30, 2011 at 10:12 am
        • Permalink

        This is why I like digital artwork, Leslie – if I make a mistake, I can hit the ‘back’ button and undo it! (The digital work actually gave me more confidence in doing non-digital art, believe it or not. I think the fact that I’m so used to ‘undoing’ has unblocked much of my fear of failing. But gesso over a painting that is already lovely – which yours is in every stage of it – eek!)

        By the way, I did an about turn on art challenges, and have something in my blog that might interest you and your other readers: My challenge to you 🙂

      • I am working on something for your poem right now. Takes me but a few days, but I will have something.

  15. This is lovely Leslie. I also went back to the older painting and remembered that was one of the first times I visited here. I have enjoyed it immensely ever since. I think it is important to document, at least on occasion, the process we go through to help figure out what actually happened in a painting. LOL Your photos are always so wonderful.

    • Thank you for the encouragement about documenting. It has helped me to see where I am going and to see opportunities with the next painting. …..and I have them for handouts for my classes, then. Thank you for your positive comment and for returning to “Coming Home”.

  16. Leslie, this just takes my breath away! Look at the shadowy lines in the drive way and grass. The steps are each a wonder. I especially love the middle ( you had just added the branches). Then I went on …and the flowering trees could be smelled. Lovely..why am I not surprised?

    • Thank you, Louise. I like that stage with the branches, too. I am going to have to do another with just branches. That was like piecing together a puzzle. I think the masa really supports and enhances tree limbs and trunks, don’t you, now that you have been experimenting with it?

  17. Oh, Leslie, what a lovely work in progress! I want to paint, just at looking at those beautiful painting. Better take my camera… 😉

    • You create gorgeous paintings with your camera, Anne! Just think of the watercolors you could create with your reference material! Thank you for the comment ! 🙂

  18. Lovely to see these trees take form Leslie and how you build up the painting. I wish we had some flowering pear trees near where I live!

    • They are all over, here, Lynda. Do you have them elsewhere in your area? Thank you!

  19. How beautiful and delicate ! Well done ! I need to pull out my masa paper and try it !! 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration !

  20. That first piece of toned masa paper looks almost like a map – I’m drawn to it , and can see why you enjoy it too. I also enjoyed reading through the process. You’ve mastered this technique Leslie and what’s more each new body of work is different and unique. I love them all.

    • I chuckle about the map comment. I asked my students, one night, if they had received any comments from their family members in regards to their work. One lady said her husband always told her her paintings looked like maps. 🙂 From that day on she and I worked on depth. One day, she was thrilled when she came to class and showed me her first painting her husband decided was not map-like. Truth be told, the masa does all the work. Thank you!

  21. Damn you woman! You just get better and better. This, like Alex said, is magical. I want to stand under these trees and just soak up the colors.

    • Thank you for saying that. I am rather attracted to that fourth one and wondered if I ruined this by putting all the flowers on, but that was “the way they were”! and I needed to show them in spring. Thank you for noticing the colors popping through, Carol. I could not have done that without laying them in ,first.

  22. I look forward to it, Leslie. 🙂

  23. The way you work with Masa is very special. I think the combination of texture provided by Masa and color from the palette you favor makes a really attractive painting.

    • Thank you, Linda. It is totally under my skin, now. I have to make myself put it up to continue in other areas, also. It is almost comical. I hide my extra toned papers and gift myself with one in between painting and rice paper collage and portraiture on hotpress and coldpress papers.

  24. what beautiful paper – and the creations you’ve made out of it! serene!

    • I just discovered this paper this past spring,”Y”, and it is fast becoming my favorite surface to paint on. It takes time to prepare it and tone it, but I have started devoting an evening to that process about once a month and then stack the dried and toned papers. Thank you!

  25. such lovely layers from start to finish here, leslie!

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By Forest | Leslie White on 07 Jul 2013 at 1:15 am

    […] The above painting was done on masa paper that I crinkled, toned and adhered to 140lb Arches coldpress paper. This is, by far, my favorite surface to paint landscapes on. I like the effect of the crinkled and toned paper.  If you are interested in trying a painting on this type of surface, I have outlined how to prepare the paper here. There is more info found here and here. […]

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