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Painting project
Leisure Painter

Painting project

Posted 29 April 2015   |   1172 views   |   Art & Photography   |   Comments (0) Part 1 Paint this stunning view of Alpine peaks in this month’s painting project from a photograph. Jane Ward takes you through the process of painting a loose watercolour sketch in preparation for a more finished painting

I always feel inspired with the approach of winter and the first snowfall. So when I woke on a cold and frosty morning to find the Alpine peaks covered in a fresh dusting of snow, what more could I ask for?

Wondering what the view would be like from the top of the Col de Joux Plane,  I made my way up the 1700 metre pass. The higher I drove, the deeper the snow became, but the road was clear and dry. A few hours spent in this winter wonderland revealed a brightly lit Mont Blanc in the distance with swirling soft mist in the valleys and a bright blue sky above dark pine trees that were shrouded in fresh snow. All inspired me to paint the scene you see in the photograph (above).

Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Europe so I wanted to create drama, and decided a panoramic or landscape format would lend itself to this scene.  A large detailed sky would not be necessary, however, as it would detract from the mountain ridges. And I chose strong colour tones to create dramatic crisp edges, painting light next to dark and leaving plenty of unpainted white paper; it is a snow scene after all.

Creating more mist between the mountain ridges would also lend more of a sense of drama and give the painting distance with areas of softness.

I completed the watercolour sketch, Winter Ride (right), to build up some ideas for painting the Mont Blanc Massif. The sketch became an exercise in sorting through the detail of the photograph and on choosing colour and tonal values. Remember that you can leave out whatever detail you wish.
A painting is a reminder of what  inspired you; it should convey mood and passion. Colours do not have to be exact, but creating harmonious shades with strong tonal values will help to build up the painting.

Looking at the view I thought the foreground was too complicated; by painting fewer trees, you’ll leave more space and create a natural lead in to the painting. It’s also important not to paint the trees in too regimental a manner, or of similar sizes. Then give thought to the direction of light under the trees, which always helps to add more dimension to the painting.

To add more light and texture, use a palette knife to remove dark tones on  the branches of the trees. Candle wax can also be useful to maintain the white of the paper. By gently rubbing it across the dry paper, you’ll create a  barrier that the paint can’t  penetrate, but which also adds sparkle, ideal in a winter scene. Be cautious when applying the wax, however, as it can’t be removed.

Middle distance The middle distant mountain ridges need to be kept fairly simple with less detail and with areas of softness; this will help to show the dramatic ridge of the Pointe de Salles and help to lead the viewer into the distant Mont Blanc range. This can be done using the white of the unpainted paper.

Try softening the base of the  mountains to create atmosphere and stop it from becoming too detailed. Imagine a mountain peak emerging from the mist and the drama, beauty and grandeur it portrays.
It’s often difficult to balance tonal values throughout the painting when you paint the sky first. Why not paint the sky after the mountains have been added? This will help gauge the correct tones to use in the sky and give a real idea for the mood of the painting.

Often in a watercolour painting we begin with too much colour, which is difficult to lighten and sets the tone for the rest of the painting.

Colour and tone
Using cooler shades of blue in the sky will help to bring more depth to the painting. Cobalt turquoise is a beautiful colour, does not granulate like cerulean and is a more transparent shade. Try mixing it with a touch of cobalt blue  to add variation in the upper section  of the sky. Using a cooler shade of blue in the distance helps with recession  as does adding a warmer hue in the foreground area. Cobalt blue is a  cooler shade, while ultramarine blue  is warmer, and perfect for painting  the foreground mixes.

Adding permanent rose to all the mixes can unite the painting throughout; this cool transparent shade does not granulate unlike crimson alizarin. In  Winter Ride I used permanent rose diluted with plenty of water to give a very pale tone in the misty areas and across the white snow;  the tone gives more warmth in the foreground snow.

Cool cobalt blue was used in the mountain shadows while a strong tone of Winsor blue with burnt sienna was used in the foreground pine trees. I used a No. 6 Rigger brush and softened areas with a small water spray. Taking off colour with a palette knife while the paint is still damp will reveal lighter branches, which varies the tonal values further. The misty effect at the base of the mountains helped to create more atmosphere and distance between the mountain ranges.

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Learning to paint is fun with Leisure Painter, the UK’s best-selling learn-to-paint magazine! Follow the projects, demonstrations and practical advice in every issue to create drawings and paintings you’ll be proud of.

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