Renee Walden is an accomplished Plein air painter and sketcher, and we were privileged to have her as a guest for a Live Demo! I really enjoyed following along with this one because Walden incorporates brighter colours than I would have thought to use, but the result is still convincingly realistic!
The first thing that Walden does is add blue to the sky and the water. For my project, I used the Etchr watercolours, and they were perfect. I used Cobalt Blue for the main sections of sky and water, then I incorporated some Umber Brown to grey it out for the cloud details, and for the water, I used both Cobalt Blue and Ocean Turquoise.
I liked Walden’s explanation of how watercolour changes as it dries. If you leave a wet on wet wash alone and don’t dry it with a hairdryer, the colour will spread, separate, and become misty and delicate as it dries.
Continuing with the Cobalt Blue and Umber Brown mixture, I added the furthest mountain peak, leaving some places white to represent either snow or highlights on the rock. For this step, it’s imperative to make sure that the layer beneath it has thoroughly dried.
Next, it was time to make even more mountains, and this step was rather satisfying. While the bluish-grey was drying, I added Umber Brown to suggest distant trees or other vegetation, and it really added dimension and made the mountains come to life.
A considerable element of Renee Walden’s lesson was the concept of atmospheric or aerial perspective. In aerial perspective, faraway objects become darker and bluer in colour because of the moisture in the air. So, it’s important not to let the distant objects become too bright and warm.
If I remember correctly, I added just a touch of Etchr Mighty Ochre to make this colour a bit more grasslike. The grass in that part of New Zealand is more brown than green, so make sure not to overdo any green you might add to the mix.
Keeping with the principle of aerial perspective, I added Umber Brown to warm up the nearer parts of the land and shade them darker at the same time. It’s important to do this when the first layer of the grass is still wet.
I added the same greyish mixture I used for the mountains to the bit of land that the church is on, only this time I left it a little warmer so that the mountains would retain their sense of distance.
After adding lots of fun, vibrant colours to the nearest piece of land, Walden showed a neat trick: Use a pencil to make grooves in the paper while the paint is wet so that the paint can dry into these very precise little lines to make grass. I didn’t do it nearly as beautifully as she did, but it was certainly fun to try!
Next, it was time to add the trees. Here is where I should have switched to a smaller brush, but I did not, so let’s just call my trees Impressionistic. It was really fun to add the trees while the previous trees were still wet to add subtle value shifts and slight gradients pretty easily.
Adding depth to the grassy area was fun. I used deep greens and even a purple. I just went wild with it, and it was calm.
Once the church had been detailed and shaded, it was time to add some subtle ink lines. I didn’t have the exact shade of brown in my fountain pen that Walden had in hers, but I made it work.
I went ahead and added some black fountain pen, just a little so that the brown wouldn’t be so washed out in my ink lines. Walden’s brown ink was darker and redder than mine, so the black helped mine out. Nowhere else in the image has black, though, so I was very sparing so as not to wash out the rest of the painting.
I also used a white gel pen to add some highlights to the mountainside and the lake because I didn’t leave as many white areas as I wished.
This project was so calming and lovely. If you want to join in the fun, go to Renee Walden’s Mini Workshop right here!