On the Easel: Maleny, High Key

I’ve been experimenting lately with color ranges and techniques. I’m particularly interested in high key value ranges, where all the colors are pushed towards the light end of the value scale. Below is a recent high-key painting based on Maleny’s beautiful landscape. The idea was to capture the midday sun’s shimmering colors and sense of light.

Dan Scott, Maleny, High Key, 2020
Dan Scott, Maleny, High Key, 2020

Reference Photo and Study

Maleny High Key, Reference Photo 700Web


  • Oil on Ampersand Gessoboard. 18 x 24 inches.
  • Main colors: Ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow, cadmium yellow deep, viridian green, and titanium white.

Refer to my supplies list for more details on what I use.


  • I painted in a very high key (all the colors are light). I drew inspiration from the Impressionists, especially the Russian Impressionists. Below is a grayscale of the painting. Notice how the darks are more like mid-tones.
Dan Scott, Maleny, High Key, 2020 Greyscale
  • At midday, there’s a sharp contrast between light and dark. This means painting with hard edges and clean shapes.

Tip: Painting under the midday sun usually means weaker colors. The lights tend to be tinted and washed out. More light does not necessarily mean more colorful.

  • The dark trees just over the hill act as small but powerful accents. They command attention from the tinted surroundings.
  • As colors get lighter, they also get weaker in terms of color saturation. That explains the “soft” appearance of the painting.
  • I used texture to reiterate the sense of depth in the painting. The foreground is thick and luscious, whilst the sky in the background is nothing but a thin wash of color.
  • Multicolored strokes in the foreground create the illusion of detail. It’s an efficient way to paint. A single stroke conveys so much information.

Progress Shots

Step 1: A simple sketch, focusing on key lines and shapes.

Dan Scott, Maleny, High Key, 2020 WIP (1)

Step 2: Thin washes of bright color. Then wipe down the surface with paper towel to remove excess paint, leaving only a stain of color.

Dan Scott, Maleny, High Key, 2020 WIP (2)

Step 3: Block-in major shapes. Refine details. Use texture and multi-colored strokes to create the illusion of detail.

Dan Scott, Maleny, High Key, 2020 WIP (3)

Step 4: Finishing touches, sign, and photograph.

Dan Scott, Maleny, High Key, 2020
Dan Scott, Maleny, High Key, 2020

Additional Resources

Thanks for Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I appreciate it! Feel free to share with friends. If you want more painting tips, check out my Painting Academy course.

Happy painting!

Dan Scott

Draw Paint Academy


Dan Scott is the founder of Draw Paint Academy. He's a self-taught artist from Australia with a particular interest in landscape painting. Draw Paint Academy is run by Dan and his wife, Chontele, with the aim of helping you get the most out of the art life. You can read more on the About page.

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3 comments on “On the Easel: Maleny, High Key”

  1. I really like the softness of the painting. When I try to do something like this I never know when to stop, hence I lose the looseness and softness that I was trying to achieve. Guess it is just practice and having confidence that not everything has to be painted!


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