Sunday, May 15, 2022

"South Downs Fog" (watercolor on paper; 12" x 9")


"South Downs Fog"


The following is the description of what we did in the fourth week of the spring term, 2022 for my "Watercolor from Start to Finish" class (my online Zoom class with the Art League School in Alexandria, VA).

This week we explored the aerial perspective through "South Downs Fog". The aerial perspective is the phenomenon that occurs in nature in which the farther things (let's say, mountains) are, the lighter (value), duller (chroma), and bluer (hue) they appear. The details also disappear progressively as the distance between the viewer and things increases. The phenomenon is caused by the presence of dust, pollution and moisture. The following images from the internet are good examples of the aerial perspective.

How do we achieve the aerial perspective in watercolor? Watercolor is ideal for painting this sort of landscape situation. We have been exploring the wet-on-wet variegated wash for the last two weeks and that is precisely what we used to create the soft, diffused look of the distant hills in the reference. Since we go light to dark and soft to hard edges, we established the general atmosphere in the first wet-on-wet layer.

We wetted the paper thoroughly and evenly and painted in horizontal strokes, using cobalt blue, permanent alizarin crimson and ultramarine blue (the last two make purple). At the very bottom of the paper, you may want to use a little winsor lemon with cobalt blue to paint the light yellow green field. Dry the paper.

The rest of the painting was painted on dry paper to create crisp top treelines, using stippling method (reminiscent of Seurat's pointillism). A small round brush is better than a large one. You have to use enough water, otherwise the dots will dry by the time you stipple the next brushful of different colored dots, therefore not allowing the paints to mix on their own on paper (as supposed to the artist mixing the paints on palette).

If you look at my painting above, you will observe the bottom of each treelines is darker than the top of the treelines. This occurs in nature as the bottom of a tree or treeline doesn't receive as much light as the top. We created the illusion by starting each treeline with the dark purple mixture of ultramarine blue and alizarin crimson.  Immediately we switched to stippling with the darker green mixture of ultramarine blue and gold and the lighter and brighter green mixture of cobalt blue and cadmium yellow pale (for the top of trees). In the shadow areas, you can stipple with the purple mixture.

Make sure you draw some tree trunks and limbs to suggest these dots are trees. Also connect the dots here and there so that they don't look like a jumble of meaningless dots. Some trees should have more "sky holes" than others for variety.

Before the first dark purple strokes started drying, we stroked cobalt blue shadows to create the soft, fuzzy look. In the case of the first treeline, I stroked the cobalt blue wash diagonally and left some first light yellow green wash intact (to suggest the sun rising and the fog lifting) in this mellow southern English landscape.

For the second treeline, we used slightly less paints to make it lighter; for the third treeline, even less so that the aerial perspective was materialized. The control of values by using less or more paints (or more or less water) isn't easy. In my class demo, I erred on too light a third treeline, which had almost the same value as the fourth treeline. I could have added another layer (glazing), but didn't have time.

The details also were minimized in the third treeline; by the fourth treeline, there was no detail.

At the end I tried the milky white gouache horizontal strokes on the fourth and third treelines to emulate fogs. You can try them too!



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