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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > October 18 > Painting the seasons

Painting the seasons

Lucy Willis shares her ideas for a series of seasonal watercolour paintings and offers tips and advice for working from photographs


Autumn Sun, watercolour with wax crayon, 11x15in (28x38cm)

Imade my first visit to the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey at the end of November 2017, aware that I had just three cold winter months in which to complete my paintings for an exhibition in March 2018. It was a sunny day and I took numerous photographs all around. Although I usually work on the spot, I decided to take a different approach this time and tuck myself away in my studio and see what I could do from these photographs.

Autumn colour

The first painting, Autumn Sun (above), was based on what I’d seen that day, when a few leaves still hung from the beech trees. I made more of the orange leaves to make a stronger explosion of colour evoking a warm autumn day. First I printed out my chosen photo at A4 size, on plain paper, and divided it with pencil lines into quarters, then eighths. From this I painted the skeleton of the composition on my watercolour paper in pale blue-grey, using the sections on the photo as a guide for placing buildings, trees and shadows. Using the same method I so often use when painting on the spot, I made little marks and reference points, quick and loose and light enough to be lost in the painting eventually. I began to fill out the composition and painted the base of the Abbot’s Kitchen in flat simple areas. I used a mixture of cerulean blue, violet and a touch of yellow ochre but left spaces making a filigree pattern where the leaves would hang in front of the building. Next I placed some yellow and orange leafshaped blobs in rough position and decided to make that blue-yellow contrast the pivot of the painting. The yellows are cadmium lemon, cadmium yellow and a touch of cadmium red mixed in where the orange was darker. I particularly enjoy creating the effect of light shining through leaves when the colour becomes intensified and vibrant. This contre-jour effect is similar to viewing a stained-glass window lit by sun from outside and, in the case of foliage, is heightened when seen against shadow. So the contrast of the cool shade on the building and hot, transparent foliage was the key here. The colour of the ground changed throughout the shadow area so I used a range of darks mixed from sap green, violet and ultramarine.

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About The Artist

Welcome to the October issue in which many of our top-class artists celebrate painting in a variety of locations in all kinds of weather, from Pete the Street Brown in Havana, to Geoff Hunt who shows how not to let an unpromising day spoil your painting. Our artist-tutors also offer help and advice on colour mixing in oils, how to improve your compositional awareness, use gouache to paint atmospheric landscapes, create luminosity in your paintings by combining cold wax and water-soluble oils, and develop your skills by working in monochrome. Paul Talbot-Greaves suggests a simple exercise to help you loosen up, Julie Collins shows how to mix the right greens for your watercolour paintings, while Glyn Macey invites you to learn from the painting style of Lamorna Birch by following this month's demonstration. Plus, be inspired as we introduce many of this year's The Artist Open Competition amazingly talented prizewinners!