Open Studio Assignment, Cherry Blossoms

Today was the first day of Open Studio at the Digital Art Academy.  Time to give my shiny new brushes a try.  I dubbed them Eastern Water in deference to sumi-e style paintings.  I wish I could tell you that I successfully culled them, but strangely the numbers increased to a colossal number, 42, which has cult status and is the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.

Armed with the answer to everything, I began to paint the assignment, cherry blossoms.  My first attempt was rather stiff, as was my second, third, fourth and fifth.  Then I had an “aha” moment.  I noticed the weeping cherry in full bloom outside my window.  Duh, it is much easier to paint when you have the real thing as your reference.  I cut a branch and brought it inside.

Have you ever tried to put weeping cherry in a vase.  I’m sure florist know how to do it, but my little weepy branch kept falling out.  I finally propped it and vase in a vertical position, which meant the flowers were upside down.  I found a workaround.  I painted a little; extracted the branch from the vase and observed the flowers in their normal position, and then returned them to the vertical.  Hey, the answer to everything is pretty handy. 

Alpha channels are pretty handy in Painter, too.  Alpha channels are defined as a storage device for selections, but I think of them as super selectors.  To start this painting, I first created an alpha channel.  My intent is not to make a tutorial about this painting, but simply show the workflow through a series of screen shots.  This is the alpha channel after painting it with short vertical strokes.  When a selection is created the black areas will be protected and the lighter areas are available for paint, which is just the opposite of a layer mask.

Texture applied to alpha channel

Alpha channel prepared with texture

I added a watercolor layer.  Using my Textured Fill Wet variant I lightly and softly identified the areas where the blossoms would be.

Placement of flowers

Determining the placement of the flowers

Added an additional watercolor layer; I work with a lot of layers.  I used my Chrysanthemum Sharp variant to give some form to the flowers.  I inadvertently continued painting on this layer with Iris Blade, but I wanted to be on another layer.  I deleted what I could.

Giving form to the flowers

Giving some form to the flowers.

On the third watercolor layer I used Iris Blade to give a soft overlay that looks like a petal.

Adding soft petals

Adding soft petals

The center of the flowers and the branch was painted on layers 4, 5, and 6.  I used several brushes, Chrysanthemum Sharp, Bamboo Texture Sharp, Thistle, and Plum Anther.

Flower details and the branch

Added flower details and the branch in the next three layers.

Layers 7 to 10 finished the details of the painting, buds and the first early leaves just barely showing.  At this point I did an Iterative Save and then dropped all layers.

Added buds and the beginning of leaves opening.

Added green buds and leaves just beginning to open.

I didn’t like the composition and added some canvas to the left and bottom of the image.  Also added my name in Chinese characters, at least I think that is what it is.  I got it from one of those sites that claims to write your name in Chinese; it could be profanity for all I know.

Improved composition

Improved composition by adding area to the left and bottom of the canvas, and added my signature in Chinese characters.

When I increased the size of the canvas, the alpha channel did not have any texture in the extra area.  I created a new alpha channel that was the correct size and with the same style texture.  I loaded the selection from this channel and in two layers painted the background.  I reduced the opacity of the layers for the finished piece, but in this screen shot I left the background at 100% opacity so you can see the texture.

Texture layer

Added texture from alpha channel selection. In the final piece, the texture will be reduced in opacity greatly.

I added a frame to finish the work.  I hope you enjoyed this quick look at the workflow of this painting.

Finished with frame

Added a frame for the final image

Here is the zip file of the Eastern Water Brushes.  They are compatible with Painter IX, X, and 11, thanks to Brush Master David Gell, who has created a script to automatically adjust the brushes for backward compatibility.  The brushes can be installed using the Studio Chris Brush Manager.

Zip file will be added later; I can’t figure out how to add it now.



20 responses to “Open Studio Assignment, Cherry Blossoms

  1. I really enjoyed this article, your work is amazing! I am also insanely jealous that you have a weeping cherry tree! I love those trees 😉


  2. Excellent tutorial Skip. I agree with Anita, I’m also jealous about that tree, although I do have two weeping bottlebrush trees…not quite the same though.


  3. I really like how you explained the alpha channels. As an instructor and as a student, I can appreciate how difficult it is to explain that others!
    I loved the blossoms. We have has such an early spring here that they all dropped their blossoms weeks ago.

    • Thanks Bean,
      I plan on delving deeply into channels. I hope I am up to the task.
      Our spring is early, too, and we haven’t had a late frost, knock wood. Still have dogwoods and azaleas to go.

  4. I thought you did a great job skip, and the piece was awesome. I am a big fan of oriental styled art, it brings me to a place of calm inside. Thanks for being.

    • Thanks Plex, I appreciate the comment. I am a fan of sumi-e, Chinese brush painting and Japanese brush paintings. I really enjoy watching the paintings being made; amazing to see the forms appear with simple brush strokes.
      Thanks again,

  5. Wow – fabulous. So fabulous that I immediately sent the link to an artist friend of mine. You have quite the command over that program. Not sure one can do that in Photoshop – do you think?

    • Thanks Sue, I hope your friend likes the site, too. You cannot paint in Photoshop the same way you can in Painter, but on April 12th Adobe is announcing CS5, which does have some paint brushes that work similar to Painter. I do not know how many or the types, but it will be very interesting to see.
      Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  6. I think you should “sell” your brushes. I don’t see any I could bear to throw away. Each one has something wonderful about it. I still do my art the old messy way… but I’m a dinosaur with an appetite for computer stuff. Your artwork is lovely.. with an elusive quality, similar to the Spring blossoms. Thankyou for sharing this with us.

    • Thank you for visiting and you wonderful comment. I visited your site and your spirited trees are beautiful.

      Currently I do not sell my brushes; I’ve thought about it, and I keep being told to do so. I enjoy sharing and knowing that folks enjoy using the brushes.

      If you are interested in transitioning to computers or using both traditional and digital media, you might want to join Painter Talk. It is a free forum. Most of the members work traditionally, traditionally and digital, or just digitally. I think you would enjoy getting to know this group of folks.

      Thanks again for stopping by,

  7. Pingback: Inspiration « My Polymer Clay Adventures

  8. The painting is just beautiful, and I love the way that you showed and explained each step of the way. Thank you so much for sharing your talent with us. I always look forward to your videos and lessons!

      • I just look at many different things. If this was when you were just learning to do a blog, you did a great job. As I go along I always look for things that help me work in Painter easier. So you see the old blogs still help some people, like me!

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