I was back at the Toronto Botanical Garden on October 26 & 27 for another two-day workshop titled Abstracting Fall Leaves in Watercolour. This project is perfect for the autumn season and a little different from what I usually teach, most certainly more looser and leaning towards abstract expression rather than scientific illustration. My approach to this workshop was to combine detailed realistic painting of fall leaves with an abstract compositional or impressionistic approach to the layout.
The light and colours are wonderful at the garden this time of year!
Below: Glorious fall daisies.
Roses still in full bloom at the TBG.
About the Toronto Botanical Garden
The Toronto Botanical Garden is located in Toronto’s Edwards Gardens and is a gardening education and information centre. Termed “The little garden with big ideas,” the TBG opened in 1958 and features a superb collection of themed “city-sized gardens.”
Edwards Gardens is a public park, owned and administered by the City of Toronto, whereas the Toronto Botanical Garden is a volunteer-driven charity dedicated to disseminating horticultural and gardening information to the public. Alexander Milne, a Scottish miller, settled his family and built his business on the site that we now know as Edwards Gardens in 1817. The land stayed in the Milne family for over a hundred years. Subsequent owners made some improvements to the property, but the area eventually became over-grown and weed-ridden. In 1944, a Toronto businessman, Rupert Edwards, bought the property to fulfill his dream of creating a magnificent country garden with wide open spaces and plenty of room to move and breath.
Edwards transformed the property into a glorious garden, boasting one of the largest rockeries in Canada, a private 9-hole golf course and a safe haven for wildlife. Ten years later, when the city began to encroach upon the property, Edwards decided to sell. Wanting to preserve the estate as a public park, he sold it to the then Metro (Toronto) Council.
In 1956, Edwards Gardens was opened to the public and the Garden Club of Toronto shared Milne House facilities with The Federation of Ontario Naturalists. The Garden Club wanted to establish a facility which would provide horticultural information to the public and to that end, the Toronto Botanical Garden was established.
The Toronto Botanical Garden is located at 777 Lawrence Avenue East at Leslie Street, in Toronto, Ontario.
The gardens are open year-round from dawn until dusk and admission is free of charge. Check out their website to see what is happening!
The workshop provides a unique opportunity to combine detailed watercolour botanical painting with expressive abstract work. The workshop covers basic watercolour techniques – such as wet-on-wet painting and drybrushing – as well as focusing on composition and colour theory. Students are given step-by-step instructions on how to use glazing, splatter and other special effects to complete a magnificent, impressionistic-style painting themed on the glorious colours and textures of autumn foliage.
Above: Perfect time to paint the magnificent colours and textures of the changing autumn foliage.
My project example.
Above and below: More examples of abstracting fall leaves into pleasing arrangements.
Below: To start the project, the watercolour paper is taped down to a masonite board and sprayed with water until the paper is moist. A mix of Cadmium Lemon, Yellow Ochre and a touch of Payne’s Grey is applied as a uniform wash over the paper.
Once the paper is toned and the leaves are drawn in, the base colours are painted by first analyzing the true colours of the leaves.
With all the leaf outlines transferred onto the paper, changes can be made to the drawing by adding or removing leaf shapes to increase interest in the composition.
The leaves are placed to create an interesting composition.
The leaf outlines are positioned on the surface of the paper in an interesting pattern. The idea is to create pleasing shapes, negative spaces and overlapping outlines. Once the leaves are in place, a piece of masking tape holds down each leaf whilst the outline is transferred onto the paper with transfer paper. The leaves can also be drawn in freehand.
Deep, vibrant autumn colours.
There are so many leaves out in the gardens to choose from. This is a great project to take advantage of the season by creating a collage of interesting fall leaves and preserving them in a painting.
A bunch of autumn leaves ready to be arranged on the paper.
Deep contrast is achieved in the painting by developing the layers and maintaining highlights as you go.
Below: The main and lateral veins on the leaves are masked to preserve the light areas. I used a Daniel Smith Fine Line Artist Masking Fluid Applicator to mask off the intricate vein lines.
Autumn brilliance! Realism meets abstract!
What a way to fully be in the moment and embrace the fall season!
I will be teaching this same workshop at the Guelph School of Art — 125 Wyndham St N, Guelph, ON — on November 9 & 10.
Check out the GSA website for all course and workshop listings. www.gsaguelph.com
Toll Free: 1-800-560-1970