It's fall and I am painting mushrooms non-stop! Tonight, I thought I would take some step by step progress photos and show how I go about painting a mushroom.
Step 1: Find a mushroom. (Or if you live in California... and it hasn't rained enough yet... look some up in guide books and online).
Step 2: Sketch! I like to do sketches in a very light pencil (3H) directly on watercolor paper. Keeping it light helps when I make the inevitable mistake and have to erase. I think I erased this mushroom four times before getting the cap shape right. For mushrooms, it's important to pay close attention to the shape of the cap (is it rounded? bell-shaped? is there a dent in the middle?), the texture of the stalk (is it smooth? fuzzy?), and other structures such as the volva (that's "volva", not "vulva") and annulus (also not what it sounds like).
I have picked the Fly Amanita (Amanita mascaria). This species has a rounded cap covered in white warts, a skirt-like annulus, a smooth stalk, and a bulbous base.
Step 3: Block in some of the colors. For this species, I know that the top of the cap shades to a red-yellow, so I put down a layer of yellow that will get covered up with red paint later. I always test colors and color combinations on a sheet of paper before using them on the real painting so that I know how they will turn out. At this point it looks super ugly. It is very difficult to get past this point and realize that it will look better later, but you just have to keep working on it until it improves. Don't give up!
Step 4: See? It looks a little better after filling in the rest of the cap.
Step 5: Shading. I use an even mix of ultramarine blue and burnt umber to make a gray shadow color. Shading the white parts of the mushroom involves a teeny amount of paint applied in the shadow areas and then blended using water to make it look more subtle.
Step 6: Darken the darks. I picked a dark green to add to the red for shading around the cap. I also stuck some dark gray under the cap and around the base of the stalk. Aaaaaand it's done!