(My "On the Easel" posts give you a behind-the-scenes look at what I am working on, what went well, what went wrong, and things I learn.)
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.
Reference Photo and Study
Below is the reference photo I painted from. Keep in mind that I was not trying to copy the reference photo. I used it merely for inspiration and to spark my memory of the scene. The painting always needs to stand on its own.
- Oil on Ambersand 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.
- 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.
Step 1: A simple sketch, focusing on key lines and shapes.
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.
Step 3: Block-in major shapes. Refine details. Use texture and multi-colored strokes to create the illusion of detail.
Step 4: Finishing touches, sign, and photograph.