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Planning Retirement Online

Art Masterclass - 97

How to Paint Autumn Leaves

Rachel McNaughton - Posted on 28 Oct 2014

Autumn Leaves

You will need:

Surface: Saunders Waterford high white 140lb Rough paper 15x10in (38x25.5cm)
Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colours: See colours, below

Step 1

1. Draw a pattern of leaves of different sizes across a sheet of paper. Include at least one really large leaf and place the others at different angles.
2. Have several pieces of Clingfilm ready. They shouldn’t be too large but large enough to more than cover each leaf.
3. Wet the paper and, beginning with yellow, quickly drop in lots of different colours (except cadmium red and Winsor violet). Think in broad areas of colour rather than dotting lots of different ones all over. You don’t need to paint the leaf shapes at this stage, just allow the colour to mix on the paper.
4. Load your brush with ultramarine and splatter while the initial wash is still wet.
5. If you have time, drop in more colours and tip or move the paper to encourage the wash to flow and mix.

Step 2

It’s important to place the Clingfilm while the paint is wet. Lay it fairly flat on the individual leaf shapes then pinch together to create folds and wrinkles. Try to make the creases go in roughly the right direction. Allow to dry. It’s not possible to use a hairdryer on the front of the painting, because it will blow the Clingfilm away. Turning the paper over and drying the back may speed up the process, but it’s best to allow things to dry naturally.

Step 3

When you are sure everything is dry, remove the Clingfilm to reveal the patterns it has made.

Step 4

1. Repaint the leaves with the same washes as before, following the outline and using the point of the brush to give a serrated edge to each leaf. Sometimes drop in a little strong cadmium red or even Winsor violet (with care!) using the tip of the brush while the paint is still wet.

2. Add a little more colour where one leaf meets another to differentiate one from its neighbour. Fade the colour out with a little water and a clean damp brush to avoid a hard line.

Step 5

With a Rigger or other fine brush and very little paint, lightly add the veining on the leaves. Allow the line of the veins to hit and miss to avoid a hard or heavy line. Use a darkish mix of burnt umber and ultramarine for this.

The finished painting

Autumn Leaves, watercolour, (38x25.5cm)

Rachel McNaughton

Rachel runs regular watercolour workshops and classes near Wetherby, and is available for workshops and demonstrations at art clubs in Yorkshire. Visit for details of forthcoming events or telephone 01937 574124

This feature is taken from the December 2014 issue of Leisure Painter


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