…continued from Part 2.
With three mountain paintings behind me, I was ready to try again. Yes, this might be considered an obsession at this point. This time I backed way up. On day three of the workshop, Ann taught us how to do a monochromatic value study, eliminating colors in order to really focus on just the values in the painting.
So, here’s my process for Mountain #4, the final painting in the series…
Original Photo (Cropped). I decided to crop the photo and focus in on just the mountains and trees, leaving out the reflection to simplify things a bit. To see values, I first tried blurring my eyes to notice the light and dark patterns. The lightest value (nearly white) is the sky on the right side of the picture. and the darkest value is the trees in the foreground.
Red-Lens View of Photo. I also viewed the picture through both a red and a green plastic lens. When you do this, the values really pop out, because the green/red somehow neutralizes most of the colors. In this way, the brain can see value much more clearly, because it doesn’t have to simultaneously distinguish color. Here’s a rendition of the photo as seen through a red lens. If you squint your eyes, the value differences really stand out. Shapes also really stand out.
Value Study Sketch. After studying the photo with squinted eyes and through the green and red lenses, I did a value sketch, just using pencil. I tried to focus on getting the relative value of each element/layer of the drawing right.
Monochromatic Value Studies. After the sketch, the next step was to do a monochromatic value study, using just one color of paint. I ended up doing two monochromatic paintings.
Monochromatic #1. My first attempt was a bit of a wash (hah, hah, pun intended). It didn’t end up being monochromatic, and because of that, I wasn’t really focusing on value. I’m not sure how it happened, except I just couldn’t bring myself to use one color only.
Monochromatic #2. Having learned my lesson with monochromatic #1, I mixed a sepia color and tried again. I started from the back of the painting with the lightest layer (the sky), and I worked my way forward, adding more paint to the mix to darken the value for each new layer (ending with the trees in the foreground).
I actually really like how the value study turned out, which says a lot for the fast and easy I-don’t-care-how-this-turns-out method.
The Real-Deal Painting. Once the value study was done, it was time to face the blank paper again. Ann suggested that one should paint using ONLY the value study for reference (not the photograph). The problem with a photograph is that it contains way too much detail, and when you try to capture that in a painting, you tend to overdo it. So I exercised great restraint and only referred to the photograph for colors and nothing else.
With this painting (as compared to the other mountain paintings in prior posts), I started out with a bluer (that spelling just doesn’t look right) mountain. My initial version was too light (I was now paranoid of making the background too dark), so I added another wash of paint to darken it up. I also added some splatters and grass to the foreground for added texture and detail. For the clouds, I used the paint-around method. The blue mountain pushes the mountain to the background, where it belongs. And the detail and darker trees bring the foreground, well, forward.
Conclusions from The Great Mountain Study. I learned so much by painting four paintings of the same subject (see Mountain Study Part 1 and Part 2). One thing I would do differently next time, though, is to paint the paintings one after the other, rather than simultaneously (which is what I did for Mountains #1, #2, and #3). While painting them simultaneously was convenient (because I was able to let one painting dry while working on another), I wasn’t able to incorporate lessons-learned into each subsequent painting.
Overall, I gained a real appreciation for planning out a painting and taking the time to do the value study. Thank you, Ann Lindsay, for your expert instruction!
And I think I could paint the shadows on that darn mountain in my sleep now.