Paint Light, Paint Bright

In the last article in this series, PA Joe Francis Dowden illustrates how to put pizzazz, oomph and glow into your watercolour by painting light first, landscape second!

Painting a scene like this is not about the landscape, but about where you place yourself in relation to the light. I paint light first, landscape second. It can seem challenging to take this unorthodox approach.

When you look toward the sun, landscape comes alive.

Even mundane scenes spark and fizz with life and energy when observed looking into the sun. Turn the other way and the view can be dead and flat. Seek light first, then the desired landscape. Here is how to paint it.

Any leaves not acting like mirrors are behaving like coloured glass. Backlit leaves have sunlight shining through them – translucent - like little stained glass windows they glow with colour.

Colour is fresher and biased toward yellow when compared with their normal leaf colour.

Other leaves are shaded. I have about three layers of shade represented in my painting. Bright colours are balanced by the deep tones of silhouetted solid objects and deep shadow. This gives the maximum possible tonal range for ‘oomph’.

AThis is a basic sketch, with pen nib masked leaves and a few highlights on trees and small branches – refer to the finished image – all fine whites are masked.

I have also spattered a few masked highlights with a hog hair brush, and very gently dabbed masking from the fibres to add a little chaos to the too finely mannered pen nib masked sycamore leaves

BRipped up paper forms the stencilled border for these passages of thrown colour.

Hurl some water from a well pointing large sable brush – a 10 or 12, and then hurl the colour on (Cadmium Yellow, Green Gold, and Burnt Sienna - use a lot of yellow) by banging the brush handle down on the upturned palm of your hand.

Work from bottom to top for each swathe of texture, so the droplet sizes diminish with perspective. Do it once and allow to dry.

CBrush the trees in with the yellow green and, when dry, repeat the spattering, adding a dark to the mix – I used French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna.

DWith the paint dry do another layer of slightly darker spattering before progressing to the intense dark created with a black or neutral tint added to a little Phthalo Green.

Each layer of spattering must be dry before moving on to the next.

Brush the twiggy forest floor to the left lightly with Light Red. When dry, roughly brush over a few black lines.

EBuild the darks with a combination of spattering and brush work, drawing the trees with the brush and painting round some leaf shapes while leaving some spattered shapes to speak for themselves.

More leaves will appear with the removal of the masking.

Brush green shadows from the trees onto the foliage with Phthalo green and some darks from the palette. These shadows enrich the green in the foliage.

FAdd a little blackish blue wet into wet to the base of the painting with a mix such as French Ultramarine and Light Red, and allow to dry. Brush a small amount of Gum Arabic onto the water area, just a few strokes, not total coverage. Next wet the paper and start adding Yellow.

GWhile it’s still wet add more Yellow, Burnt Sienna and Phthalo Green, separately in vertical strokes.

HIt’s all a bit of a mess - don’t try to be tidy. Add the colours wet into wet and if it dries re-wet it.

Add darks of Tube Black and Neutral Tint here. These horizontal darks represent the tracery of bottom shadows.

IBuild up the colours in the wet reflection mass area, and drag out roughly over the dry paper below for tree reflections and the reflection break up zone (the mass zone is worked wet, the break zone dry).

JFinish the reflections and remove all masking. Lift out a horizontal light with a damp brush.

KLightly touch in a few glinting leaves with muted greens from the palette.

Touch in masked tree edges and apply some Cadmium Lemon to the left side of the trunks.

Now you have a finished painting.

I hope you have enjoyed this series – I would love to hear how you got on and if you have any questions, please do get in touch.

If you would like to spend more time enjoying Joe’s expert tuition, why not join him on a painting holiday or workshop?
See www.joedowden.com for information. 0788 799 8499 / 01903 237096 / [email protected]

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