Autumn in the Rosehaven Cottage gardens: Sun's last rays

Sun's last rays

Digitally painted photo

In between the much-needed rain showers we've been receiving this week, I took the time to duck out into the garden and take some photos of the last vestiges of summer as well as the first signs of autumn.

Summer lasts longer and autumn comes later here in our climate. Sunflowers are a flower of August, September and October for me. This lovely is one of the last bunch blooming in the shaggy front garden that is in dire need of a "haircut".

Until the last heatwaves end and the autumn rains come in the latter part of October, the garden has to remain on the shaggy side to conserve water and prevent burn that could occur on newly trimmed roses and other bushes. The uncut fennel and sunflowers going to seed on their heady high stalks make for lovely natural bird feeders where finches, oak titmice and bushtits feed on their delectable seeds. The birds' flitting provides copious entertainment for the indoor kitties as they peer out the large living room picture window. With noses almost touching the glass their teeth chatter and whiskers twitter silently as they enjoy the show.

Over the next few posts, I'll be showing more vignettes of what this unique seasonal transition looks like in our gardens here at Rosehaven Cottage.

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Behind the Scenes: Little Halloween Witch (and her kitten) from sketches to painting

Little Halloween Witch

It's time for another "behind the scenes" post about my latest painting "Little Halloween Witch" so you can see the progression I went through to create it.

Every painting always starts out as a rough pencil sketch in one of my sketchbooks (I have several). Usually the sketches aren't in scale with one another. Rarely are they the size of what the finished painting will be. And often elements of the same finished composition aren't even on the same page in the sketchbook! Sometimes I don't know if I'm going to combine elements into one composition until much later in the process.

The sketching phase is the time to just get shapes and elements worked out. LOTS of erasing happens during this phase (you can even see my eraser lines if you look closely).

Once I like a sketch enough to take it on to the next phase, I scan it into the computer using my Epson Expression 10000 XL flatbed scanner that has a large glass especially for art. The digital version of the scan is cleaned up in Photoshop so all the eraser lines and boo boo's. It's at this point that I correct any proportion issues within the sketch by cutting and pasting pieces.

I'm left with a clean sketch that I reduce the opacity on so it looks like a light pencil sketch. I print the sketch onto regular watercolor paper that I send through my Canon Pro 9000. Even though my Canon can print up to 13x19 prints, I cut the watercolor paper down to 12x17 so it's the maximum size that my scanner will take once the painting is done.

Next, I tape the watercolor paper to a drawing board using white drafting tape. Then it's time to get out the brushes and paints! This is my favorite part. I love turning on iTunes and painting.

This painting process can take hours or days. Sometimes I can sit down and do a painting from start to finish all in one sitting (the black kitten for this painting was like that). But usually I work on different pieces of the painting, set it down, walk away, and then come back with fresh eyes and a clear head after a long break (sometimes overnight). I often do that several times. Even though I paint with a portable fan nearby to dry the paints quickly if need be, sometimes it's good for me to let the painting sit and let all the moisture in the paper really dry so I don't have to worry about cross-bleed between colors that are touching one another. That's the real secret to watercolors. Dry paper works like a "dam" with the paint that will usually only spread on moist or wet paper. When I'm painting something like the little witch's hair against the black hat, I definitely can get bleeding from one to the other. I have to let the paper completely dry or it would ruin it. That's when overnight drying is essential.

Even though the paintings look like they're done at this point, they usually aren't.

I scan them into the computer again using my flatbed art scanner. Then with Photoshop, I clean up any "oopsies" that happen (like when my hand spazzes and the paintbrush flies across the painting leaving a trail of purple paint in its wake).

After clean-up, I go in and digitally paint highlights like the little white sparkle in the eyes. I could do this last step with watercolors, but I have more flexibility if I do it digitally. I can try various placements and opacities on the highlights without altering the original painting.

The final step is to take the finalized art and place it in a composition so it can be used as stationery or reproduced as a print. Sometimes the two compositions will look very similar to one another and only differ in size to accommodate the end product. But other times (like this time) I can get creative and do a crisp "tight" version for use in e-cards/e-invites and then an "artsy" version for prints.

I still can't decide which one I like better. I think I like them both for different reasons.

Little Halloween Witch

Click here to see this painting in fine art reproduction prints, canvases and cards
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belong to Cindy Garber Iverson.
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