Did you misread the title?

It’s birches. Not bitches. Just to be clear. ;)

Today’s layout is my second-to-last available layout in my Moleskine notebook! That’s right, folks. one more single-page layout available to me and then I can put this first art journal to rest. (Well, almost… I still have to fix its spine and I want to decorate the cover, too.)

I can’t take a lot of credit for this design. This was more learning to work with watercolors and this particular layout was done following Lindsay Weirich‘s guided tutorial called “Blue skies and birch” on her YouTube channel, “The Frugal Crafter”. I really enjoy watching Lindsay. She’s cheerful, has a great sense of humor, quick, and above all – talented!

IMG_8612I prepped the pages in my Moleskine with clear gesso tinted with white acrylic paint. I then masked off the edges to help create a finished look and masked the two areas where the birch trees were going to live. As you can see on the finished product, the masking didn’t seal very well at the top thus some of the color bled through. Oh well. It also happened to bleed through on the birches when I was doing the sky wash, but I think that actually worked out well – it pulled some of the environmental colors into the trees nicely, in my opinion.

One thing you learn when you’re working on art – be it highlights or shadows – and be it in physical media or in Photoshop – you learn that light and shade reflect the colors of their surrounding environments. If you look really closely at a red apple sitting on a white table, for instance, really LOOK at the colors in the shadow it’s casting. It’s not just grey. You’ll see hints of red in there, and depending on the light in your area, there could be subtle blues and/or yellows. Natural color is never a flat wash. Even look at the white walls in your room. They’re not really white – the sun or your lamp casts differing lights and shadows on the wall.

Art lesson aside. Back to my process.

A word of warning. I am NOT happy with Artist’s Loft brand watercolor brushes. I purchased a pack from Michael’s with a coupon yesterday and put them to use for this painting today after having pre-washed them. Well the damn things shed hairs all over my layout when I was working on the sky. I got so fed up with them I stopped using it after the second brush shed on me and went to some other hand-me-down brushes I’d been using previously. I’m thinking I may take them back to Michael’s and request a refund… except that I threw the packaging away already. Anyone know if they’ll accept brushes back without the packaging?

Regardless – really annoying to have to stop what you’re doing and grab tweezers and pinch little hairs off your page.

Hairs in your watercolor? Not ideal, unless you’re going for some interesting mixed-media look.
The culprit shedding paint brush. I hope this was just a bum batch from Artist’s Loft.

After I finished my battle with the Artist’s Loft shedding watercolor brushes and their wayward hairs, I moved on to some different mixed media brushes and did the side-load technique for the mountains in the background. I dried the page and then sponged on various colors ranging from mixes of Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow and Ultramarine Blue to create the leaf effects.

Dried the page and then removed the masking tape where the trees were to discover the fun bleeding from my sky wash on the trunks. Mixed a gray color with Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna and did another side-load of the brush to create the shadows on the trees and then followed Lindsay’s ingenious cut-up credit card technique to scrape on (and off) color on the trees.

If you look closely at the nearest birch, you can see some of the scraped paint areas that were achieved by using the cut-up credit card.

Used the same gray color to paint in the branches then splotched on straight Cadmium Yellow leaves and a green made of the Cadmium Yellow and Ultramarine Blue. Took that same green and created grass below and added various color mixes to add depth and contrast to the grass. Sponged on some more color, did some more scraping and called the paining finished!

Hope you enjoyed the layout. I am open to comments and suggestions on how to better describe processes, etc.

List of materials:

Moleskine notebook
Mod Podge
Liquitex Clear Gesso
Liqutex white acrylic
Winsor & Newton Cotman tube water colors
Natural sponge
3M blue painter’s tape

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