Ava Jarvis Art
Ink and Watercolor Artist
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Art Process Blog

Ava blogs about the art process, art tips, and general art musings.

peaches • feb 20, 2017 — process pictures

It all begins with a spark of an idea, further research into the symbolism behind that idea (referring to various cultures where appropriate). As it turns out, I was thinking about plums due to painting a still life involving blue-purple grapes. Plum symbolism led eventually to peaches through multiple Chinese idioms involving the relationship between the two. I thought about flowers, but decided on full-colored fruit instead. 

The current political climate made me think of utopias, and it turns out there is a utopia connected to peaches—in particular, a Chinese legend of a valley, time-locked, where the peach trees blossom constantly. 

Poems, and especially short ones, are difficult to nail down without seeming trite. A quick sketch of a simple composition in the corner. (Pitt pens on Moleskine writing journal.)

Working out colors in a hot press (smooth) surface Stillman & Birns 3" x 5" watercolor sketchbook. Hot press acts differently from cold press (textured)—something for me to keep in mind the next time I do a preparatory thumbnail. 

These days I additionally do a desaturation analysis on any thumbnails I create, to make sure I spread out my values properly. A colorful picture can still have issues if all of the colors have similar values. This one didn't quite make it; midtone peaches and dark leaves are quite alright, but the background wash shouldn't be a similar tone to the peaches. Either the left extreme (striking a balance between dark and middle tones) or resorting to a lighter value would work.

More experiments to figure out a good way to get a nice value with a good contrast color. I pulled out my color wheel to figure out a good color scheme—in this case, a triad scheme works well, so a shade of purple would work. I decided to go for a light lavender tone—this one I did mix in the palette, which is somewhat problematic for Akashiya watercolor brush pen dyes as they separate so easily. I decided such an effect wouldn't be unwelcome in a background anyways.


These days for water-based media paintings I do an under sketch in a neutral, light tone (pale orange from Akashiya's set works great for this). I used a color mixing chart I'd created earlier to figure out how to get the right peach tones. This is before the waterbrush blend. Paper is from a Strathmore Visual Journal, 140 lb cold press.

Waterbrush blend on one peach to show you the end result of the drybrush recipe, contrasted to the second, unfinished peach.

Leaves using the pine green (no mix), and then using the peony and indigo mix for the background. As I said, the colors tend to separate when blending Akashiya watercolor pens on a palette and picking up the result in a waterbrush—however, this has a very nice effect!

I decided to use water to draw out the green of the partly dried leaves for a shadow, watery effect. 

Choosing how to balance the title, how to space the words, how to pace the line breaks, are all part of poetry. The final poem is a better compression of the feelings of the draft poems—contrasting the unreachable sweetness of a utopia of eternal peach blossoms with our reality of peach fruits that only last a single summer. 

Sign it, and then last minute value spread check. Good to go! 

A smartphone photograph and some filters later, we get the finished piece. I have tried scanning my pieces in the past, but we've now reached the age where smartphones will yield more megapixels than scans from home scanners. It's better to take a good picture and then futz with filters and other digital adjustments.

Ava Jarvis