Concrete Bas-Relief Botanical – Colour or Not?

Oh decisions decisions, even when it comes to finishing our concrete! Let’s take a close look at the ‘what & why’ for our beautiful Concrete Bas-relief – colour or not.

The reasoning:

As an illustrator and artist there are many questions that I ask myself when making a piece of work. There are certain accomplishments that I want each piece of art to make, even though they are not always the same. You are in control, no one rules what you decide – really.

These relief castings whether Plaster or Concrete have so much texture and form taken from nature. When they are cast and have no colour they are essentially monochromatic (using only one colour) with the use of grey. The light bounces off the forms to create the ‘picture’. Technical, yes, but that analysis helps make a decision.

Each plant specie has different qualities; some have much relief and catch the light so much more whereas others that have hardly any relief are quite flat. Let some of analysis help you make your decision. I tend to choose plants that have some strong enough structure to hold the form through the imprinting process.

Notice the Daisy here is quite flat, but luckily the other leaves and grasses do give good shadows.

Subtle Accenting:

One choice of providing an accent without major use of colour is just with dry-brushing. If you have read my post about painting the Cast concrete Leaf bowls you know I like to use this technique a lot. Reason; you do not need any fancy painting skills and it is subtle. It just adds a bit of difference of colour (light or dark) to the higher surfaces than the lower surfaces (valleys). The trick is to have hardly any paint (in this case a good quality acrylic paint) on the brush. I use a paper towel to make sure I rub most off.

When you look at this you probably do not notice the painting at all. That is because it is basically acting like the light; just bouncing off the higher parts. Personally it is one of the best techniques for relief anything! That is why those popular beer steins are painted this way – and it super fast!

Check out the lovely detail! Each part of the gras shows like a line. We often want our art to be detailed and defined, and this does the job! Why make more work when not needed?!

It’s all about Contrast:

When there is more contrast things stand out. If the background colour is darker or stronger then the dry-brushing highlights give much contrast. It’s like wearing a very strong lipstick colour – it will stand out from your face! A white will stand out more if the background is very dark. You can add colour to your concrete mix to make it easier to have a dark background.

The Challenge of Colour:

This relief casting has much area that is not that ‘relief’ so I wanted to try colour.

Bleeding Hearts are one of my favourite spring perennials! They are quite strong greens and pinks. For some definition I first gave the piece a thin wash of dark watery paint to catch in the crevices and make them darker; that works similarly to the highlighting dry-brushing.

Then some transparent layers of colour were added to the leaves and flowers. I feel kind of juvenile when I paint like this as it reminds me of a colouring book! It is not my favourite.

Do you like it? I am sort of ‘Bleh’ about it. To me ‘IF’ I could paint it as I like it would end up being all about the painting and no longer anything about the relief at all!

Take Inspiration:

Well, sometimes it might feel so right to add colour. These are some of my garden succulents that are various shades of reds. They are quite dimensional and do have good relief as well as large details.

No flat colour application here; I wanted many shades of red.

Scary when you apply the antiquing over the colour! ‘But this makes the piece even more dimensional since it catches in the crevices. Just make sure to wipe quickly…

Alright, I like this one, what do you think? I think it party works due to the amount of colour variation and also the texture.

Let me know which you prefer…

Light makes the difference:

You know that light makes ALL the difference! If the light is skimming across the surface the details are more obvious; like thse dark circles under your eyes! The same goes for these wonderful pieces, so it is best to have them on a vertical surface since most often the light is coming from above. These have no paint that can fail if you hang them in the elements, as acrylic will hold for a good length of time but probably not forever.

Check out much the subtle details are caught with the light here; the Hosta blooms even show the stamens.

Personally I think I love the simplicity of no colour. I know it’s hard to say considering that I have colour everywhere – but maybe that is why. I sometimes just need the chance to ‘take a break’ from colour to relax a bit. These days all the white walls gives us that relaxation; but feel free t do as you like! Be unique and original.

I hope I’ve inspired you in one direction or another. If you like one of mine; I can help with that as well There are both ‘naked’ and painted ones available…

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    1. I love making these as it really celebrates nature! Only problem; I need more space to hang them. I hoping to stock some in a shop as shipping them was a nightmare. Good luck!