Sketching mist streams in the Canadian Rockies

I’ve not long returned from a trip to the Canadian Rockies, where the mountains rise high in truly awesome splendour. I managed around a hundred sketches, many in watercolour, and the hot, sunny weather made it really a pleasure to be out sketching. Luckily I had some bad-weather days as well, even some snowfall, and this gave my work that added atmosphere: when you can see everything there is no mystery.

Canadian Rockies

This watercolour of Stoney Squaw Mountain near Banff was done on a cartridge sketchbook, showing fresh snow and wreaths of mist, which many find difficult to tackle. If you use copious amounts of water and keep your edges soft (sometimes you need to soften edges that have dried hard with a damp brush). Obviously experience with the wet-into-wet technique helps here, and you may well need to re-wet some areas to create misty shapes of crags, trees and ridges.

One of the great advantages of the colour sketch over a photograph in a situation like this is that you usually find the camera will record simply stark contrasts of dark rock and white snow, losing any sense of colour, unless strong light is highlighting  any colour. When sketching, observe carefully any colour present in rocks and vegetation, even exaggerating it if necessary, to avoid the work looking too cold or sombre.

I can’t wait to get going on some enormous compositions of the Canadian scenes.

Painting moody mountains

When you’re starting a blog for the first time, where do you begin? Why start one at all? Well, I love bringing the wonderful world of nature to folk, through the medium of my art. I shall be trying to help students along with their painting as I’ve been doing for a great many years through my books, articles and DVDs, relating my adventures in the great outdoors, discussing some of the characters I meet, whether two-legged, three-legged or more, as well as chatting about art and the countryside.

Being a landscape painter who mainly specialises in the wilder type of scenery I was bowled over by the amazing atmosphere in this mountain scene when I did some walking in Snowdonia last month. It cried out to be sketched and soon I shall paint it in the studio. Whether you are interested in painting mountains or not, you can learn much from observing this scene: the few colours involved, which give it a great sense of unity and mood; the strong contrast between sparkling water and gloomy mountains; the manner in which the background peaks merge into the cloud-laden sky. I’d more or less paint it as it stands, perhaps simply making the central rock larger, with a touch of colour to set it off as a centre of interest. It’s one of those few compositions that need little changing from the real thing.

Enjoy your painting!