Olive Branch, above, 14 x 18" canvas in oil paint and wax medium. This is a commission for the Mount Dora Olive Oil Company in Florida. I'm adding a few shots of the work in progress for those who are curious about how these things take shape.
Above are two of the four thumbnail sketches I did. These are about 4" wide, and you can see I was trying out some different shapes for the branch and facing or slanting it in different directions. The bottom sketch is more finished because I liked it better and thus continued to work on it.
When I put the design on the canvas, I did it originally in a red-clay-colored pastel pencil. I didn't photograph that step because the pencil is a soft color, not very dark, and doesn't show up well in photos at all. You can see that I kept the basics of the design I had in the thumbnail, but made the branch somewhat more graceful, with fewer bare spots or abrupt curves.
The photo above is of the stage at which I had taken a brush and some dark paint (mostly raw umber) and drawn the graphic-style outline with that. I then left it to dry before continuing.
Next, I had to start mixing the greens and browns I wanted. Greens are tricky, and what looked nice and neutral to warmish on my palette, looked really minty-blue on the canvas. I had to keep adjusting it.
The shadow you see on left is mostly cold wax medium, which is this translucent stuff about the consistency of Crisco, and you mix it with oil paint; and in this case I applied it with a palette knife, like skimming a wall with a trowel. Eventually I covered the whole surface in it, making the colors lighter as I moved toward the right. Wax medium lets me build up a lot of transparent to semi-transparent and then opaque layers really quickly.
When you start with a transparent layer and then put opaque layers over it: *poof* instant feeling of depth. It's really fun to do. The rest of the painting process was one of applying layers of transparent, translucent, and opaque paint, with the brightest and most opaque "foreground" or focal area in the lower right quadrant. That's also where I used the coolest, bluest colors in what is otherwise a very warm painting. Had I used the same colors all over, in the same proportions, it would have been pretty but not very interesting -- more like wallpaper.