Step-by-step: Paint decaying plants quickly
I start with a curved shape for the stems of dying plants. I choose a dark green to increase the sense of decay. I keep some stems straight to show that they’re growing next to the figure. Then I add the leaves, keeping their shape simple. The edges aren’t clean and that’s the key trick when painting decaying matter. The same technique applies to the flowers in the scene.
I choose this colour scheme to show the difference between healthy and dying plants. On the left are the green pastel colours I use to create my Eden, and on the right are the autumn brown tones that will represent dying, decaying plants. I use some nude skin colour highlights instead of grey to create a link between my character and the dead vegetation.
Now I start to add details on the leaves. The stems don’t need much work because they’re very thin elements. To create the wilted texture I simply scribble on my leaf base with a very small Round brush. I need to create a rough appearance with plenty of colour variations. I enhance the sense of dying vegetation by adding angular outlines instead of the normal curves of leaves.
Now I play with the light, increasing the contrast between the dead plants in the foreground and the background. I add more light on their wilted leaves, and sharpen their outlines slightly. I really want to create a crisp look here. I use a basic hard edge Round brush to add dots of light. Finally, I choose some desaturated colours to ramp up the feeling of decay.