I Make Mud Well, But Want Beautiful Bushes Instead

Hi Darrell: I have been working on the bushes DVD, and I am having a hard time getting my bushes to look like the ones on the video, One thing is when I go to highlight, I find that I have so much paint (for me anyway) that I seem to only get mud, If I cut down the paint I don’t get any highlighting, or so light that you can hardly see it, also the dark comes off on to my brush and when I go to the palate for more paint it mixes in and gives me a horrible color, I have tried to wipe the green off but I cant get enough of it off with out taking off the liquid white, then I have to go through the whole loading thing? Do you have any suggestions, I am using the 2″ landscape brush, and I have tried the 1″ also. Chuck.

Hi Chuck, hardly a days goes by that someone isn’t talking to me about how to make better bushes. Seems this is a major problem areas for students. So I’m just picking your letter as the one to respond to on the Newsletter. You did a fine job in explaining your issue.

I’ve thought about your email quite a bit. You’ve provided a lot of details and as I evaluate your email your problem could be caused by one or more of the following problems.

Sometimes I think you’re problem might be too much pressure.
OR, maybe you’re doing something while you’re pressing that’s getting you in trouble
OR, maybe it’s the way you’re loading the brush.
OR, maybe it’s the way you’re mixing the color.

So, let’s go over the fundamentals again.

The dark, base color is already painted onto the canvas and it has NO medium in it.

Mixing Color.

Take a clean 1″ brush and dunk in the last 1/4″ to max 1″2 inch into the liquid white. Now the Liquid White (TM) should be thin, not real thick. Most of the time I find when you open a never-before-opened can of Liquid White, its way too thick. So I take odorless thinner and add some to it. Re-seal the can and shake it up real good. Liquid White, in my opinion, should be thin enough that if you put the handle end of a fan brush into it that 2 or 3 drops fall from the handle back into the can. If it doesn’t add more thinner. This is what you dip your 1″ brush into.

Now look at the bush video again. See how I take a 1″ brush with liquid white and pull it through the paints. It’s a wrist action. I hold the brush straight up and down. Pull toward you letting the bristles pick up the paints. Once the bristles have passed over the paints, lift up the brush and repeat the process. As you’re repeating the process look at the palette. If the paints where you’re pulling start to look like they have a latice imprint on them, you have sufficient paint on your brush. So now you’ll be ready to paint your bush.

Remember on the video how I show to touch the canvas with the brush. Angle the brush so that as you come into touching the canvas only the top 10 or 15 hairs are touching the canvas. Keep those hairs at that point while you finish making the impression. Now push in gently toward the canvas so that the hairs underneath the top 15 bend upward and lightly touch the canvas. This is what causes the latice impression that really gives you big excitement on the canvas.

A word of caution here. Too often I’ve observed in my classes that students do a real good job of putting the first 10 or 15 hairs onto the canvas. But, as they bend the brush upward to bring the lower brush hairs into contact with the canvas, they kind of slide the brush upward or flick it upward. This is a major no no. Those 10-15 hairs must remain stationary. Do not let them move. So double check yourself here.

Remove the brush from the canvas and move to the next spot to highlight right next to your first impression. Repeat this process until you’re entire bush is painted. Then I will go into the interior of the buush using the same process but with even lighter touches. This allows the bush to look darker and darker as you effectively look into it. Brightest highlights are on the outside.

Now the hardest thing, but it’s a must, is when making many bushes, save the darks. Save the darks for the interior of the bushes and save the darks to separate bushes. You can break the rules now and then, but not always. Your darks are your friends, so preserve them for the most part.

I try to complete one bush before I go to the next. Don’t forget to scratch in those sticks and twigs with a palette knife or liner brush.

I only reload when I need to. I can tell when its necessary on two occasions.

First, when I’m running out of paint, it will become harder and harder for me to make those lattice impression. I’ll find myself pushing harder and harder on the brush. At this moment, its best to just relax, remove the brush from the canvas, wipe the dark off, if any — and generally there is, with a paper towel and then reload.

Second, if I need to change colors. Remember the next time you’re in the woods, look around. All the vegetation and bushes, while green, seem to have their own shade. Nature has never been in the military so vegetation will not grow in formation, nor do they all dress the same and look the same. Nature is a rebel and all of creation has their own irregular shapes and colors.

I think these suggestions will help you out quite a bit. Let me suggest you rewatch bush making on the DVD again a couple of times and compare these notes.