"Island Oasis"- Tropical Leaves & Island Style October 17 2016, 0 Comments

Colleen Wilcox original tropical leaves painting

Aloha Friends! I am happy to present to you my latest original painting entitled, "Island Oasis." It is a 24"x30" acrylic on canvas original, featuring some of my favorite tropical leaves (monstera, banana, ferns, palms and colocasia). I would now love to share with you some of the process and inspiration behind my newest piece. 

pencil sketch of tropical leaves painting

Living in Hawaii, I am inspired on a daily basis by all of the incredible tropical leaves that can be found in nearly every outdoor space (even gas stations and parking lots!). Although I have included leaves in many previous paintings, I have never made them my main and only subject matter. I usually depend on the contrasting colors of bright flowers to dominate my paintings' foregrounds...so in this case I was a little uncertain about how to create a good composition with mostly green colors. 

Because of this, I spent countless hours sketching a very precise composition in pencil. I erased over and over, flipped the painting upside down/ sideways, and looked at it in the mirror until I was finally satisfied.

I found it a challenge (as usual) to create an aesthetically appealing design that also stayed true to the realistic form of the plants. For reference, I used a live monstera plant in my house, and also collected palm fronds and ferns. For the banana leaves and colocasia/ alocasia, I took photos and searched on Google images. 

outlining tropical leaves painting by Colleen Wilcox

The next step was not something that is typical on every piece: outlining the pencil sketch in color with paint. But since the actual lines were such an important element of this piece, I felt it was necessary for me to make them bolder before I continued filling in more color. 

adding color of tropical leaves painting by Colleen Wilcox

Following the outline, I spent time considering my preferred color scheme (teals and greens). I then began to fill in larger areas of space with watered down acrylic paint.

At this stage I thought my painting began to look like a fun aloha shirt pattern!

paint palette next to tropical leaves painting

Since my painting would be composed of entirely leaves, I had to think about how I would incorporate contrasting colors besides only blues and greens. I was very conscious about negative space as well, to help the painting elements to "pop". 

in progress shot of tropical leaves painting

I added pinks, yellows, maroons, purples and deep blues to help round out the piece and add dimension. I worked layer by layer with a thin wash of acrylic, allowing the paint to dry between coats. 

colleen wilcox original tropical leaves painting

Once I was finally satisfied with the colors (about 40+ hours of work later), I went in with Posca paint pens and added black lines around the majority of my shapes. This is the final step I do on each piece to give it a "cleaned up" and modern look. 

I'm really happy with how this piece turned out, and am excitedly planning to use the image for prints and fun products that would look great with a tropical leaf design. The best part about the whole process was that it really deepened my appreciation for tropical leaves. I see them now not just as a filler or "background accessory", but as a gorgeous subject matter in their own right :)

If you would like to purchase the original "Tropical Oasis", click here

Aloha for now!

Colleen