Toads on a Toad Stool – Creative Painting Process

I’m happy to say I will be continuing to paint animals, in this case toads, in this new animal series I started thanks to pokes and prods from a friend. What will I call it? What’s it about? It will be an exploration of color schemes and color line work on the technical level. However it is also about capturing the kind of tranquility you feel when you stop in a field or forest and take in moment, but then you catch something special and are bewildered in awe of nature.

Color Harmonies and Climate

Another element I’m interested in capturing is the unique moist marshes of boreal forest. Between the few landscapes I painted this past couple years and studying light for my sci-fi series, I realized each place has a temperament in light based on the intensity of the sun, dryness or wetness of the air, and the temperature of the climate.

There are places that are naturally more orange with dry, faded pastel colors in the landscape, but that allow for really bright, punchy colors to pop (think bright red salsa dresses on a beach or a colorful poncho against a desert backdrop).

Then there’s places like Canada, where the grey and damp landscape gravitates to deep teals, marines, browns and pops of accent color. I really think there is something special about how light looks in our Canadian landscape, how saturated colors becomes when soaked in rain as they do with autumn leaves or bright moss.

Painting Composition – Sketches of Toads

Right now, my thoughts about this are incomplete and I’m just happy to have a new series of work. So far it seems I am focusing on local animals with a turtle, crows, a fox, robins, and barn owl. Here we have North American toads I believe. If I’m wrong, please correct me before I sign the painting. I took this amazing photo at the annual Reptile Expo in Montreal.

To start, I did an ink drawing study. These drawings help my brain absorb all the visual information, and in the end I have a great black and white sketch I can make prints of.

Then, I created composition sketches. This was hard this time and it just happens sometimes that images don’t come to the imagination as naturally as usual and they have to be brute-forced. Just like writing, you have to commit drawing the first crappy idea in your head to clear it and work past it.

Work in Progress - Toads on Toad Stools watercolor painting by Karolina Szablewska
Sketchbook

This is an average amount of sketches I do for a piece, and what made this challenging was the subject is dangerously generic: Toads on a toad stool. How do you try make a children’s book subject into more elevated art? The final composition I selected was favored for color composition and simplicity.

Work in Progress - Toads on Toad Stools watercolor painting by Karolina Szablewska
Penciling on the project paper

Painting Process

After penciling the drawing base on my thumbnail and references, I mask out any white areas and begin by underpainting with watercolor washes. Then, I detail plants & bring the vibrancy of the mushroom caps to where I’d roughly like them.

Work in Progress - Toads on Toad Stools watercolor painting by Karolina Szablewska
Work in Progress - Toads on Toad Stools watercolor painting by Karolina Szablewska
Work in Progress - Toads on Toad Stools watercolor painting by Karolina Szablewska

After a while, I focus on one area of the painting to figure out what the final image will look like as a test. This lets me create a color swatch and decide on the level of detail which I can then apply to the rest of the painting.

Work in Progress - Toads on Toad Stools watercolor painting by Karolina Szablewska
Work in Progress - Toads on Toad Stools watercolor painting by Karolina Szablewska

Finished Painting

All in all, this painting was about 30 hours of work from start to finish. The painting is available for sale as well as a print both here and on my Etsy! Next couple ideas include newts, white moose, moose in winter, hawks.

toads on a toadstool watercolor painting by karolina szablewska
18″x16″ watercolor painting of two toads sitting on Fly Agaric mushrooms on the forest floor. Lineart done with acrylgauche. Based on references from the Reptile Expo in Montreal taken by the artist and found images. ~2021

Alternatively, these artworks are available as art prints on my Etsy. This painting was also captured in a time lapse – stay tuned for that video in the future 🙂

Leave a Comment

Item added to cart.
0 items - $ 0.00