I paused before applying brush to paper on this painting, to decide how to handle aspects of the painting like the spruce tree in the foreground and the leafless aspens in the background, I finally started painting on my John Deere painting today.

My American Artist Watercolor magazine (spring 2008 issue) is open before me again, this time to the article on Aida Klein. She’s painted some watercolor winter scenes that make wonderful use of the white of the paper, and I’d like to do the same. I’m especially referring back to her painting Untitled (Girl with Trees) because I love the line of foliage at the top of the page.

At the same time, I want to maintain looseness in my rendering of the scenery, and save the detail for the tractor itself. The photo above shows my first sitting with this painting. I wet the entire sky area, as well as the treeline, and held my board upside down as I painted in the sky. The sky is lighter at the bottom than at the top, and by holding the board upside down, the paint flowed more to the top of the page rather than pooling at the bottom.

Before my sky wash was dry, I started on the treeline. I wanted the tops of the trees to have a fuzzy, jagged edge that wasn’t crisp and hard, but didn’t blend smoothly into the sky, either. Using my knowledge of bloom, or backrun, I waited until the sky had lost the shine of moisture, but was still damp, and then painted my treeline. Because I had wet the treeline area when I painted the sky, it was damp enough for the paint to blend, and yet at the top, where I stopped painting, where the tops of tree were to touch the sky, the greater wetness of the treeline paint touching the lesser moisture of the sky caused a bloom that gave exactly the fuzzy treetop texture that I wanted. Victory! I also like the way some of the pigments I used in the shadows of the trees granulated for more streaky texture. I’m hoping that the treeline area will be complete with this one wash, and all that texture will be sufficient to read as trees. Well, I might add a few trunks, here and there.

Of course, it’s the tractor that will make or break this painting and I will be doing that last. But it’s a relief to know that so far, the background is something I can be happy with.