Sketching the forest ground – mixing colours

Forest ground, gouache sketch, forest nature diary
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July has been to moist and too cold for the season, but I do not mind. Hot weather is not for me. I prefer 15-19 °Celsius. In other words the weather on 30th of July was perfect this year.

Today I wanted to sketch the forest ground, a kind of mission impossible, too many details. One of my favorite jobs in forestry had been the ecologic mapping. We would walk through the forest and stop every 100 Meters or so. A simple drill would be pushed in the ground as far as possible, mostly some 50- 80 cm. In the hollow center the soil would stick and could be manually analysed after the drill had been pulled out.

Then the most interesting part followed. We would note the plants we saw, especially those which are great indicators of moisture and other conditions of influence on the growth of trees. I learned a lot about Phytosociology

I still like to walk through the woods looking at the ground which is a living organism a world of it own.

To calm down I made a few notes in ink and then started at the top of the pages with the base of the tree trunks in the background.

forest ground sketch, initial nk notesforest ground, background trees and foliage

The traces from the previous ink sketch on the backside of the paper add extra tonalities and structures.

detail gouache sketch,tree trunks and foliage

I noticed that my summer colour set in the woods consists of of only 7-8 colours.

Caran d'Ache 15 color set,greens and yellowCaran d'Ache 15 color set,grey,red and yellow ochre,blackMixing tray for green and ochre colours

The greens are mixed with the strong bright green,the warm yellow at the right top and the darker slightly blueish green. I also use grey in mixtures of green. Mixing with grey gives light but cool greens in shadows. If I want to warm up a green I might also use yellow ochre for medium tonalities or red for darker green. For very dark greens I also use some black in the mixture. Moss greens can be mixed with yellow and the strong green on the top left plus some yellow ochre.

Black, yellow and red ochre are the main colours that occur in the colours on the ground. Grey is preferably used in the colors of barks. The most difficult thing for me is still to mix the pale reddish ochre shades of last years fallen foliage.

I used one of the bigger compartments on the plastic palette for mixing greens and the other for mixing the earth colours. The fact that the forest ground is never totally flat helps. I place the mixing trays in a way that the water flows and accumulates on one side of the trays. In the dry or less moist area I move the brushes for mixing adding water as wanted in circular movements which contact the water. Sometimes I mix also in the colours pads. But usually I try to avoid that to keep the colors pure in the pads.

gouache sketch, masking with cotton cloth
As soon as the top background was finished I covered that area with a piece of cotton cloth as I wanted to add ochre colour splashes with a big brush to imitate the structure of the fallen leaves in the foreground. Later I added the old stumps, branches and grasses.

big brush with ochre colour

one reply zu “Sketching the forest ground – mixing colours”

  1. chandan kumar

    loved this site..the painting in the header image is just wonderful.

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