One of my favorite blogs in the bloggie world is The Ohio Nature Blog by Tom Arbour. Tom (who is a fantastic photographer) was in Maine for Thanksgiving and took this awesome picture:
You can read his post about this day by clicking here. Oh how I wish I could be in Maine! Aren’t you just falling in love with it already? Well, I sure did when I saw this picture, so I asked Tom if I can have permission to paint it and he said, “Yes!”
Let me just point out why this picture makes such a great painting before we begin:
1. There’s weather going on here! I love weather. It’s foggy and misty, creates a nice dramatic effect, giving it personality.
2. The composition couldn’t get any better! If you remember the “thirds rule” in art, Tom’s picture is right on. His horizon line is 2/3 up and his stream is 1/3 from the left. His composition keeps your eye balls on the painting.
3. Color, color, color. This is no drab winter picture! You have the cool blue misty colors playing against the hot crimsons in the field. Yes!
So let’s get going….Let’s paint Misty Maine!
Step 1: This is going to be a pastel painting with a watercolor underpainting. Make a light sketch using vine charcoal on Wallis pastel paper. It’s not really important to define every tree, just give your self a general road map to get started.
Step 2: With watercolors we are going to make a nice wash. I found a little secret…mix a few drops of Ox Gall Liquid in your water before you make a wash. OOOOOh I love it! It makes the watercolor paint flow so wonderfully and effortlessly and keeps it wet just a little longer so you have more time. It makes you feel like a professional! The sky is cerulean blue, the farthest trees are cerulean and a little indigo blue. The closer trees are indigo and brown. I never care about exact colors and neither should you. I used a left over brown from my pallet and I’m not concerned about mixing just the right shade because this is just the background…let go and have fun. make sure this is all done wet-on-wet.
Step 3: Now we are going to make a wash for the rest of the painting. Again, I’m not concerned with getting the “perfect” color. I see some purple in the reference picture so I mixed indigo and alizarin, and dropped some purple. I see some brown and I took my dirty brush, added brown and dropped it down. Some spots look a little more dark blue to me, so I used more indigo. If you kill yourself over which color to use, you are not going to have any fun and you might as well go to work and punch in! Unless you actually love what you do for a living, then you’re a lucky ducky! For the stream, use sky color from your pallet. That’s about it for the watercolors.
Step 4: After everything is completely dry, take the lightest blue and lightly go over the distant trees. We are trying to create a misty feeling here. It’s not that hard. If you feel like you are getting too light just layer some pastel colors: darker blue/purple on the bottom and lightest blue on top and then with your finger gently rub them together. Instant mist. Why are the trees blue? Two reasons; 1. any object in the distance lacks warm colors and 2. we are painting atmosphere or mist, weather in action.
Step 5: Here’s another trick…take a dark blue pastel, make some pine trees, then with a tortillion lightly scrub the edges. This quick tip gives the illusion that the pine tree is undefinable and lost in the mist.
Step 6: The main thing to remember is that if a painting does not have contrast it’s a crappy painting. It’s a simple rule to remember. So having said that, this next step is to lay down pastel color in the field making sure you have contrast over the background. We are still not going to get worked up about using the “right” color. Do what makes the painting feel good. I used reds, purples, browns and blue pastels (Rembrandt and Unisons). In some spots I left the background alone letting it come through. On the stream I did use the lightest blue pastel I had to make it stand out especially near the bottom of the painting where the viewer’s eye is closest.
Step 7 Final: Here is the final painting. With highlights I added grasses and sticks, making sure it was a contrasting hue than the grass underneath.
My sticks are harsh, I can just hear them crunch under my feet as I walk along the stream on this crisp misty morning. I think I hear some loons coming from the lake and I get excited, quickening my pace, crunching even louder, so I don’t miss a thing!
Oh what would I do if I couldn’t paint these paintings, placing myself right inside?
Misty Maine will be on display at the LaGrange Art Gallery in February for the 75th Anniversary Event. More info latter.
Thank you Tom, for letting me have a little piece of Maine. I know I will be there some day.