The power of a place like McWay falls is in it's class with the elements, but it's gentle design, and it's mythic looking waterfall, that has surely inspired a thousand artists. The object here was to use more powerful brushstrokes, which can be difficult in acrylics, due to the shrinkage in the paint, I had to build up the paint on the brush more than normal to get this meatier look. Here is a step by step of my view of McWay Falls as taught in the recent Reddi Arts classes.
Right: The reference photo I worked from. This is difficult light, as it
is midday and darkens the details too much in the camera. As a painter
you have to color correct, and paint in the haze and luminosity as you
remember it. Don't slavishly copy photos. Pick out and edit what you
want to keep and eliminate or alter.
1. Lay in a preliminary sepia half tone, a classic way to begin.
2. Halftone complete, I start high and work down, sky first, keeping the premixed colors wet into wet, juicy open strokes, not too blended.
3. Start adding distant neutrals. Trees and rocks in distant have a bit of haziness, so tone the greens down with white and blue, just block them in.
4. While doing step three, bring lighter neutrals to the rocks. Have a variety of blue greens premixed so you can just dip the brush in and go. Much more efficient, so you can work wet into wet.
Above: A closeup
5. Start blocking in the water.
5. continued - Using a variety of aquas and purple greens.
I started some in the grasses with raw sienna
6. Getting a bit more action in the surf
7. Added dark greens, blocking in shadow areas. Using a bit of sepia in the green for depth.
8. Adding a variety of greens in a side corner stroke with the square
brush or filbert to add movement and color to the grasses.
9. Adding light colors on the dark blocked in scaffold of color, to add luminosity and definition.
Closeup Note: see mauves in water, make the water deeper and appear to have sea grass underwater.
was taken from Pinterest, a little town in France called Crestet.
It is similar to a watercolor I did years ago (1992, and later included in my "French Light/Florida Light show) in Castelnou.
Here is a look at it Castelnou done plein air on location.
When I did "Castelnou" I used a film camera, and my photo wasn't so great to work from, so for class I took this next image from Pinterest, which offered much the same challenges as Castelnou.
The process of breaking down a complex image like this can be daunting, but we will give it a shot.
First step, the drawing and the masking fluid.
Step 2 Below: I lay down the warm washes that define the overall warm shapes in the stones
Step 3 Below: Adding purple washes into that as a glaze later, gives the work an in shadow effect
without graying down the luminosity of the stone work, and displays the sense of bounced light.
Step 4 Below: You can see I am starting to delineate and slowly intensify
the cool shadow zones allowing the color to breathe in the color field spaces.
Step 5 Adding intensity to the warm colors, more glazes in shadow areas.
Step 6 Below:
I start adding the yellows and greens and further map out the shadow areas more
distinctly. Notice in the lower right I put the cool "in shadow" blues for the plants
below the pot then painted the shadows in "negatively" to bring them "up" while
leaving them as simple color fields, not overemphasizing the details unnecessarily.
Step 7 Below: I start mapping out the tree and some branches (don't
go branch crazy here, less is more, you can always add more later)
and dark green details in the foliage. Some architectural details are emerging.
Step 8 Below: Remove the masking fluid to see what you have, remember
the masking fluid is to maintain the whites, not the shadows,
you have to think backwards here, always preserving the light.
Step 9 Below: This is where it gets interesting, you are slowly pushing the ranges of dark
and light and working the boundaries to mine and leverage your warms against the cools.
Example: Look at the purple shadows, then next to them there is a little burnt sienna next to that,
bridging the light to the dark so you feel a shift in temperature. I also boosted the cool blue wash in the wall left, to get it more in shadow. Note: I probably could have been bolder here.
Step 10 the finale: final touch ups and color tweeks are added here, accents etc.
During a recent watercolor class at Reddi Arts, I realized, while trying to explain what I was doing to the students, that I was really "painting with light"! Watercolor is a different kind of painting experience, a lot like herding cats. With oils and acrylics you can force the medium to comply with your intention, by correcting ad infinitum. With watercolors you don't have the luxury of "fixing" your mistakes easily. You have to cautiously plan out your moves in advance, requiring forethought and skill. Mostly you are putting the lightest colors from the sun, on first. I put these on with yellows or golden tones made of raw sienna, and work around the color wheel to the cool colors. I save the darkest accents til last, not rushing to them too soon. Here below is a mediteranean scene from Eze, France, I downloaded the photo from Pinterest. It served as a good example of bounced light into interior spaces, such as the garden left corner.
My approach to watercolor is a bit different and was another part of the lesson plan. I do not do preliminary drawing first. This of course is scary to
most, but if you are brave enough and have reasonably good drawing
skills, and OBSERVE the subject for a long time you may find my method
is faster and renders a more light filled result. I lay in the lightest
color first as shown below
While the drawing is being developed I am using a lot of water in my mix
changing colors from warm to cool in the spaces as needed , and letting
the colors bleed or "wick" a bit into each other naturally. This gives
the final work a more light filled look. It is as if I am
"painting with light"!
With stone details I try to understate them a bit
to keep them from looking overworked and stiff.
I will add the darker stone shadows later.
I try to be cognizant of the the light and where it must be brightest,
ALWAYS reserving it in some light version. Once it is gone, it is gone,
so pay attention to the light. I concentrate on the lighter versions of the
color of the shadow areas, waiting til later to move to stronger shadows.
I wanted to get the trees in, although I will go back in and add more depth to
the cottage shadow wall later. First I wanted to see the wall in context of the
background trees to know exactly how deep to make my shadow glaze mix.
Doing the green, I starting with a warm yellow mix first wetly. To that I would
add the various greens letting them wick into the yellows, painting negatively
where the foreground bushes meet the background cypress.
Next I needed to start preparing where the overhanging tree would go
so I could map out the sky colors so as not to place too much blue
where later I would need light yellows for the leaves. I used light
yellow sienna washes here too, adding slowly the burnt sienna and blues
later directly next to the yellow wet washes to allow for a natural look.
Below: You can detect the tree has mostly dried. While this was happening
I took the opportunity to add deepened dark neutrals into the wall shadow
and behind the palm fronds. Different levels of chrome green washes and
bright yellow glazes emphasize the shadow and the light on the frond leaves.
The tiles received a bit of detail glazes in cerulean blue cool tones, contrasted
by burnt sienna warms.
Below: I tend to believe a bit less blue is better than too much. I actually did
the water seaand island first, doing the sky color last. Water and cerulean blue
mixed with horizon blue create sea and sky. Some purple is in the island.
Below: I started introducing bright yellows where the leaves were to go.
Into that I would plan to add different yellow sienna and chrome greens,
maintainingbright light filled leaves.
It is important to create some dark leaves occasionally placed to
"lead the eye" for composition. I added a few understated branches and a
few darker greens for visual interest.
Above: The final painting "Eze" Provence, 31cm X 41cm