Keeping It Simple!

A lot of times an artist can overcomplicate their approach to a painting, which then results in an overcomplicated painting. As an artist, I’m guilty of this too. So this week I want to talk about keeping it simple.

Using my new painting, Nubble Winter, as a reference to keeping it simple, let’s get to work. First, planning the subject placement is key to the success of your painting. I always sketch out my paintings to make sure everything is exactly where I want it to be. Some artists, myself included, will do a preliminary sketch before sketching on the watercolor paper. We do this because you do not want to erase on watercolor paper as it can disturb the integrity of the paper making it hard to paint the erased area.

After I am through sketching, I size the paper and wet the paints to activate the colors. I then focused my attention on creating the sky scene; this particular scene has a very light wash of cobalt blue. I didn’t need to paint the snow since the watercolor paper is already white, so I moved on to painting the rocks. In winter, things look crisp and rocks tend to be darker than in the summer, so I went with sepia for my rocks. For darker rocks, a second or even third coat of sepia did the trick. (Fun fact: Nubble Winter is actually a limited palate painting; I only used 4 colors. If you want a challenge, do a limited palate painting, they can be a lot of fun.)

The icing on the cake for this painting was the lighthouse. I used brown matter on the roof, as it’s a nice deep red and one of my favorite colors to use, a lamp black for the windows and lighthouse, and my shadows are my washed-out cobalt. Make sure your shadows are a shade darker than the sky, you don’t want all your values to be the same. Having different tones and values creates depth, so even if you use a limited palate you can use different color values and tones. I finished off my painting by framing it in a double white mat and 1” flat black frame which brings out the darks in the painting showing all the contrasts.

Overall, winter paintings are a lot of fun to do and can be fast to paint. A common question I get is “how long did that painting take?” Hard to answer because they all vary, but let’s just say they can be done quickly!

I challenge you to give it a try.

Happy painting, 

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