Where I live we are blessed with countless streams and waterfalls tumbling down the hills and mountains, and I like nothing better than to wander beside a mountain stream with sketchbook, well away from the hurly-burly of life. One mountain stream is worth far more than a thousand mental health quacks for our well-being. In my short demonstration painting last week on the Shopkeeparty site I painted a mountain stream on a misty day, as seen below, and on Thursday 13th will be doing a much longer, more considered workshop on the site.
In the painting I aimed to lose much of the mountain and its detail in background mist, using the wet-in-wet technique, pulling out some of the colour on the left-hand buttresses with a damp brush to suggest light catching the boiler-plate slabs of rock. This was accentuated when the paper had dried by painting in the left-hand buttress which contrasts the softer-edged wet-in-wet approach used on the right-hand one. The central group of conifers was also painted wet-in-wet so that a real sense of distance was created when the dark-tones trees on the left were added. Notice on the cascade how the rocks are placed with hard edges at the tops and soft ones where the rocks rise out of the tumbling water.
Next Thursday at 3.30pm I will be running a 2 to 3- hour workshop on painting a waterfall with sunlight and autumn colours, and you are welcome to join me. I shall be showing you how to tackle many fascinating features:
how to introduce striking light effects
creating effective rock structures
making the most of exciting autumn colours
the magic of wet-in-wet passages
how to capture the energy of falling water
the importance of lost and found edges …..and so much more!
One of the little subtleties I enjoy putting into my paintings is that of counter-change, sometimes simply to create a variation and sometimes out of necessity. In my recent workshop demonstration at Shopkeeparty I employed the technique for both these reasons in the painting of a farm in Nant Ffrancon.
This is the central part of the watercolour, and you can see the slate fence in the right foreground with two of its uprights light against a darker bush, while the rest of the uprights are dark against a light area of the farmyard. I could just as easily painted the two left-hand uprights dark and it would still have worked, so in this case it was painted like that just to include a little variation.
If we now move across to the barn on the right of the composition you will see that the roof has been painted dark of the left-hand side where it stands in front of a light background, and then the roof is depicted light on the right-hand side against a dark background. In this instance it was necessary to introduce counter-change to make the roof stand out at both ends. This is an extremely useful device to have in your artistic armoury, so try to incorporate it into your work whenever you can.
I hope during this lengthy lockdown you are able to get out for exercise, fresh air and perhaps a little sketching, as these things are so vital to our well-being. Although it’s quite cold today, these winters are pretty mild compared to what it was like when I was a youngster, so there are many occasions when it is fairly comfortable to work outside. I live at the foot of vast moorlands, so I get up there as often as I can. In mid-January I sat on a rock painting distant snow-covered mountains in warm sunshine, in more comfort than many a summer day.
Today I have a winter scene on the Sussex Downs, which I did many years ago. A light coating of snow gives you the opportunity to bring in some colour while retaining the white of the paper where you wish to indicate pure snow. Keeping the landscape light in this way gives you the opportunity to make the most of cast shadows which will stand out strongly. I have cut a little off the left-hand side so that the details are not too small, although this does make it look as though I’ve plonked the farmhouse in the centre. Note the intermittent lines of ploughed furrows, which keeps it from being an overwhelming foreground. The massed trees in the distance have been enhanced by touches of highlights in places and the closest edge stands out where I have described one or two individual trees. The painting was done on Saunders Waterford NOT 140lb paper.
The second workshop is on Thursday 25th February at 3..30pm and lasts 2 to 3 hours, for which there is a fee. Again, all the details are on the Shopkeeparty site. I hope to see you there. In the meantime, enjoy your painting.
Today we have glorious sunshine lighting up our landscapes, so I am eager to get out into the fresh air once this is written. On Sunday I was up on the local moors in brilliant sunshine, but how different – icy blasts swept across the hills, so I kept moving. However poorly I may be I always find that getting outside lifts the spirits and I return in a much better mood. If I haven’t managed any sketches I am still eager to get stuck into painting. Such is the power of nature!
Sunshine, whether scorching or accompanied by icy blasts, is so vital to the landscape artist and it is great practice on sunny days to consider the effects of sunlight on landscape features rather than concentrate too hard on the landscape itself.
This is a watercolour sketch of Abinger Hammer nestling below the North Downs. My prime aim here was to capture the strong sense of a hot summer day, so I ensured there were strong tonal contrasts in the buildings where sunlit walls abutted shadow areas, and where the sunlight fell strongly I reduced the effect of architectural details as you can see between the clock tower and the main tree on the left. Most importantly, the shadow cast from the tree conveys the greatest feeling of sunlight, and this was the last part of the scene that I rendered. The illustration is featured in my book Landscapes Through the Seasons published by Search Press, and available from my website.
Autumn is upon us, and with the trees turning colour it’s a great time to be out capturing those magical views, whether in sunshine, rain or whatever: rain can create more atmospheric scenes, but if you can catch that moment after a shower when the sun comes out and makes everything sparkle it can be truly magical – watch out for those stunning reflections of colour and light in the puddles.
This year autumn is also bringing out my new book, Landscapes Through the Seasons, which has just been published by Search Press. It is in fact an expansion and update of my Winter Landscapes book – many people were asking about a summer book, but with other books in the pipeline I could not have written a whole book on summer landscapes for several years. The spring and autumn sections have also been expanded.
The illustration shows a watercolour sketch done on a cartridge sketchbook on a sunny November afternoon and reproduced in the book. If you are out sketching at this time of the year it really does pay to use colour, whether in watercolour, watercolour pencils, acrylics, inks or whatever you fancy. Note that the most powerful effects occur when abutting the complementary colours of purple and orange against each other – if that tree of glowing orange doesn’t quite come in front of that distant purple hill, then give it an artistic shove and see the effect. Likewise warm yellows against the blues and purples will make your autumn scenes sing. Flying leaves and trees with just a few single leaves remaining can add to the season’s visual treasures, and these can be achieved in watercolour by little dabs of masking fluid. By applying a dark colour over these dabs you can then create sparkling light leaves when you rub off the masking fluid. Let your yellows, reds and oranges run into one another in the foliage to vary the overall effect.
The later paintings in the book are carried out with Daniel Smith Extra-fine watercolours, and many of these are exceptionally effective for autumn colours, such as Aussie red gold, transparent red oxide, moonglow and quinacridone Sienna. Quinacridone gold and gamboge are also great colours for this time of year. We all need something new to brighten up these difficult days of lockdowns, so treat yourself to some of these amazing colours.