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Watercolour techniques for misty days

Peter Cronin demonstrates pure watercolour painting techniques for atmospheric landscapes, including fog, mist and haze
Flood Meadow, watercolour, 9×10in (23×25.5cm)

The world grows smaller on a misty day. The horizon appears closer and the familiar becomes shrouded in mystery. Mist, haze and fog are made for watercolour. Gone are the hard edges, strong contrasts and overtly colourful palette of sunlight, and in comes the soft, diffuse and more muted palette of fog’s close relative, rain.

As with rain, foggy, misty or hazy weather conditions are, of course, capable of a shot of rich colour, but the hard, cut edges that rain can still produce on occasion will be absent from our softer friends, with the exception of the immediate foreground. If the sun is on the prowl, our close tones will be lighter and perhaps contain some colour; if absent, then the tonal map stays close but moves darker and colour edges to grey.

Painting outdoors on foggy or misty days is eased by the slowness of drying, but the effect can change by the minute and drying the painting can become problematic without the aid of a portable stove.

The astute observer will have noticed that painting with the overall wash is predisposed to this soft-edged start. Perhaps the best method for successful foggy, misty or hazy paintings is to push this first wash as far as one can safely go and, once dry, tease as few edges as possible. If painting outside this is no problem, as the painting will stay wet for a very long time, but to do this in the studio a deft, sure touch is needed. This scene met me on my morning walk. I only had my phone with me so I took a number of photographs from various angles. Soft, hazy scenes like this demand a thorough knowledge of the wet-in-wet technique and your paintbox must be well-moistened to allow rich, juicy pigment to be obtained immediately it is required. In my opinion it is not possible to carry out this type of painting in a hot dry studio or on a hot day, as the water will evaporate off the paper far too rapidly to achieve the required effect.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our January issue which looks forward to the new year ahead with our special 6-page guide to open competitions and exhibitions in 2018 and beyond, with all the entry details and all-important deadlines. We also include full details about our own The Artist open competition with fantastic prizes and the opportunity to see your work exhibited and published in the magazine and on our website, promoting your artwork to our massive international audience. Our inspirational, practical articles from this month's team of top-level professional artists and tutors include how to exploit extreme shadows in watercolour for enhanced light effects, watercolour techniques for capturing atmospheric weather conditions and how to improve your watercolour still life paintings. Equestrian artist Ruth Buchanan offers 10 top tips on how to draw the horse, NEAC President Richard Pikesley offers ideas on painting 'table-top' landscapes indoors when it's impossible to get outside to paint and Barry Freeman explains how painting from the heart is the key to loosening up in your work. With much more too, you will find plenty of ideas in this issue to keep you painting over the festive period. The team at The Artist wishes all our readers a happy, creative time and enjoyable new year.