I think a good idea is to think of a painting in terms of a recipe. You need to add the right ingredients at the right time with the right motions in order to get the right end result. With that in mind, I took the lessons I learned from my practice sessions, and tried another draft of this painting, with the idea of a recipe in mind. My goal was to reduce the painting to a few repeatable steps, and document what should happen in each step. Then, I can look at what didn’t go right on a step-by-step basis and work on correcting the techniques in each step, instead of trying to fix the whole composition. I’m hoping this will translate to better results.
Step 1: Sky
Mix a good bit of ultramarine blue, and a tiny bit of raw umber to get a very cool grey at a tea consistency. This should be mostly ultramarine blue. What I’m trying to do is cut the chroma a bit, but not too much. I want the pigment to be very watery, which is why it’s at tea consistency.
Mix the ultramarine blue/raw umber with some Quin Red (just a smidge) to a tea-like consistency.
Mix that with a tiny bit of Perinone Orange (tea).
Wet the paper with a misting bottle.
Dab the UM Blue and Raw Umber into the sky – heavy blue in the upper-right corner. Leave some spots bare for the clouds. Wash to the bottom of the page with clean water. (The horizon will be 1/3 from the bottom, and the paper should be bare white there.) Blot with a rag to clean up the clouds, and then dab very light color on some of the edges before the paper dries.
Step 2: Distant Trees and Water Primary Wash
Mix UM Blue and Raw Umber to a neutral grey (just a tad cool) at a Tea like consistency. Brush that 1/3 from the bottom to create a horizon. Dab a bit of color on the left side of the horizon, and use clean water to wash it up into the sky, and soften the edges on the right. Do the same on the right side. In this image, the distant trees start about 1/3 from the left edge, they should start more like halfway, or just under halfway. I am going to need more room on the left for the trees in the foreground. Maybe explore with those trees all the way over to 2/3 from the left.
Then, wash the bottom with clean water. Mix UM blue and a separate pool of UM Blue and Quin Rose. Wash these two colors from the bottom of the painting to the horizon, gradually going from UM Blue through a light violet to white. Keep the left edge white, but soften the edges at the left.
Step 3: Far-Mid Trees, and Waves
Use a milky consistency of the UM Blue/Raw Umber grey to paint some trees to the left of the distant trees. These should rise higher, and appear lower than the distant trees. Dab clean water at some edges to get lost and found edges.
Wet the water. When it is dried to damp, use creamy UM Blue and Quin Rose to paint waves. Note that in this image, the waves are parallel to the horizon, but do not curve to where the shore will be. This should be fixed – the waves will need to curve into the shore on the left.
Use a bone-dry brush to soften any feathering on the waves.
Step 4: Darken the Far-Mid Trees
Add milky UM Blue/Raw Umber to create edges for trees nearer than those painted in the above step. The pigment should be a little more saturated, but not necessarily darker. Again use clean water to soften edges selectively to get lost and found edges. Maybe add some cerulean here to get more granulation?
Be sure to keep soft edges on the left.
Step 5: Near-Mid Trees
Add some yellow to the UM Blue/Raw Umber to get a warmer tone. Use a creamy pigment to paint in some trees closer than the trees in the previous steps. The shore should come out a bit here to start creating an S Curve. Note that in this image, the tree is too cool. I need more warm tones on this tree, and on the grass to give a feeling of light striking this peninsula. The trunk of the tree should be darker in value where it meets the grass. Also, paint a shadow of that tree here, but don’t paint the reflection yet. Also note: I did not create a warm shoreline under the peninsula here, but I should on the next one. This will help warm up the image and help to resolve the dreamy feel.
Step 6: Foreground Mist & Trees
Use a creamy UM Blue/Raw Umber with some sap green to start painting in the fore ground trees. Keep the leaves back at the top to help isolate the tree on the peninsula. Soften the edges in the heart of the foreground trees to give the impression of mist. When it’s dry, drag some trunks in overtop of the mist with some dark pigment.
Note that in this image, the grass in the foreground is much too cool. I need to warm that up considerably to make it feel like the light is striking it.
Step 7: Foreground Tree
Paint the tree in the foreground using UM Blue and Raw Umber. Use yellow and oranges to warm up the right-hand side of the canopy. The trunk should be much darker at the base of the tree than at the middle. Use a generous amount of water in the canopy to get lost and found edges. Note that here I did not. I have all hard edges, but I want hard edges at the ground, and a mix of hard and soft edges at the canopy. Paint some shadows using a cool dark blue.
Splash some pigment around the canopy for fun.
Consider making this tree much much taller. That would allow for the fisherman to be bigger as well.
Step 8: Figure and Final Details
Paint the fisherman and reflections. Darken some values as needed. Note that here I darkened the foreground instead of warming it. I should get the foreground and the peninsula warmer in order to give more light.
I also moved the distant trees further to the left to experiment with changing the composition – this is roughly where the trees should be when they are painted in step 2.
Also note that the mist behind the tree now looks incongruous – I should work on how to fix this. Maybe let the mist creep out onto the water behind the nearest tree?
Overall this painting is eleven billion percent too cool. Warm it up so it doesn’t look like it belongs on the cover of a romance novel.
Also – try to do more “Ghost, Ghost, Go” painting. This is like drawing with charcoal – paint in the air above the paper. Watch the brush as you do, pretending that you made a mark on the paper. Think about whether or not you want a mark there. Correct your movement and paint the air again. Do that until the mark you see in your mind’s eye is where you want it to be on the final painting. Then, let the brush touch the paper. This is what I call, Ghost, Ghost, Go.