How can I paint de­cay­ing veg­e­ta­tion?

Mor­gan Win­ter, Canada

ImagineFX: Sci-fi & Fantasy Art magazine - - ImagineNation Artist Q&a -

An­swer Mélanie replies

Paint­ing de­cay­ing plants can add a nice touch to a com­po­si­tion, and they can be a strong sto­ry­telling el­e­ment. My ex­am­ple will fea­ture Eden gone wrong, with a gor­geous woman sur­rounded by dead plants. I want to cre­ate a con­trast be­tween healthy and dead veg­e­ta­tion. To achieve this I’ll play with the shapes and colours. A healthy plant will be ba­si­cally straight and green in colour, while a dead one will be bent and fea­ture au­tumn-like colours.

The shape and the colour scheme are both im­por­tant to cre­ate the sense of de­cay. A dead plant loses all its colours, so its green stem and leaves are re­placed by a lot of brown, or­ange and even black and grey parts. If you want to paint flow­ers then the colour scheme needs to be treated dif­fer­ently. The flower colours sim­ply fade away, so for ex­am­ple in­stead of hav­ing a bright red the pe­tals will be paler and de­sat­u­rated with some hints of brown.

The wilt­ing plants and flow­ers quickly con­veys to the viewer that the veg­e­ta­tion is dy­ing. Note that the pe­tals and leaves re­act in a dif­fer­ent man­ner: their oval shape be­comes dis­torted as they curl up and droop. To cre­ate this ef­fect you just have to paint a crazy leaf shape – my walk­through will ex­plain things in more de­tail…

Even in this ba­sic sketch, it’s clear which plants are in rude health, and which ones are des­tined for the com­post heap. I add some dead leaves blow­ing all around the char­ac­ter, to em­pha­sise the sense of de­cay and give the scene ex­tra dy­namism.

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