I decided to follow along with a video done by Larry Hamilton of a scene he referred to as Goose Island, which he took in Glacier National Park.
This all started because I was having some painters block and ruined a nice 9×12 piece of Arches paper because I got too cocky after having some success with my Forget Me Not painting some time earlier. So, once that dried, I took away some lessons of what not to do, then cut it up into quarters to keep for practicing on the opposite side.
Hamilton’s video is almost like having a one-on-one lesson, and I wanted to try one of these. I always skipped watching them when flitting through Youtube videos because of their long duration and because you literally watch paint dry, but I had the rare bounty of a couple of free hours, so I gave it a go. Maybe I would learn something during the process.
I don’t take credit for this tutorial, I just wanted to break down my process of painting it into a step-by-step format that you can refer to, should you feel the need. I did not have all of his colors at my disposal, and I worked with a different size paper – but improvisation works in their stead. Also, typing this up between drying times uses up some of my impatience during the waiting intervals.
In the beginning of the video, Hamilton lists his materials, so just click on the link in the first paragraph of this post to follow along. My materials and process will follow after this.
- 1 piece 9×12 Arches 140lb Cold Press
- 5/8 inch flat wash brush
- Cobalt Blue
- Alizarin Crimson
- Cadmium Orange
- Cadmium Red
- Payne’s Gray
- Naples Yellow
- Ultramarine Blue
- Sap Green
Square 1: Sketch
I noticed that Hamilton took the photo himself and based his painting from that. I decided to base my sketch on his own. I made it using a standard mechanical pencil that was lying on my desk.
Square 2: Sky
I pre-wet some of the sky area, leaving it dry above the mountain peaks and introduced a light mix of cadmium orange and cadmium red, and used clear water to bring that down to the mountain tops. I introduced some clouds with Payne’s Gray. Then, I added some Naples Yellow between the mountain peaks, at the lowest border of the sky, as if the sun was behind the mountains.
Instead of continuing on, as Hamilton does in the video, I paused playback and waited for the sky to dry completely because I didn’t want to chance some unwanted blooms (and ruin two paintings in one day). This is an exercise in patience, and because I reserve my hairdryer for my hair. 🙂
Square 3: Mountains
Now for the mountains. Things in the distance should be lighter in color or higher in value (more white). Then as objects get closer to the viewer, they get darker. This helps to create that feeling of distance and depth.
Beginning with the furthest mountains, I used a base light wash of some premixed Cobalt Blue and Alizarin Crimson that I had in my palette. I tweaked the wash with some pure Cobalt Blue in places on the mountains and Alizarin Crimson in others, just to keep it varied in tone and hue, and more interesting. I also refrained from painting all the way to the bottom of the mountains and just used a damp brush to bring the color down to them, creating a nice graduated effect. Also, as they were drying, I lifted some color with my brush to create a little texture. I then put it aside to dry completely.
Then the middle mountains, I added some more Cobalt Blue to the mix for the top, to darken it. Then I progressively added some Sepia moving down, and finally some Sap Green Darkened with some Cobalt Blue. Once again, don’t paint all the way down, but pull the wash and dilute it towards the bottom. I didn’t do that here, because I wasn’t thinking (*sigh*).
I waited for that to settle a bit, then moved towards the closer mountains, adding some deeper green tones with some more Cobalt Blue with some Sap Green at the top, making some tree shapes with the edge of my brush, I added in some Alizarin Crimson, maybe for an early pop of color and then made it darker towards the lower edge with more dense color. Clear water again to pull it towards the crest of the next ridge.
The last little ridge on the left and the larger on the right used the same colors. Darker Cobalt Blue with a hint of Sap Green for the top, fade it a bit, then darker Sepia tones at the coastal areas. I used Sepia, almost as thick as from the tube for the deepest dark on the edges, and used the end of my brush handle to pull some of the color up to create some broken edges and interest, suggesting trees of some sort. Then, I walked away and let it dry.
Square 4: Water
Now, water is just a reflection of the surroundings and the sky, so it will involve using the same colors used until this point. First, pre-wet the paper from the edge of the mountains all the way to the bottom – just leave a small gap between the mountains and the wet area to leave a stripe of white.
I normally paint quite flat, with a slight incline, but I noticed in the video that Hamilton was producing better water, and I remember that he mentioned he painted almost in the vertical, so I picked up my painting. Then, I continued using vertical strokes and created much better-looking water. So, I think I will do reflections and flat water in the vertical from now on.
I mixed some Cobalt Blue, took some of my wash of Cobalt Blue and Alizarin Crimson and dropped them in with vertical strokes, starting at the border of the wet area at the foot of the mountains and pulling down. Add some Cadmium Red mixed with a little Naples Yellow on the right, some Sepia along the edges closest to the edges of land. Also, I added some Sap Green darkened with a bit of Ultramarine Blue to get a bit of a nice green by the edges of the lake where it is fed by two streams and borders the forested area.
When done, leave it! Don’t fidget or baby it, it will look great if you don’t touch it after you add the colors. Set it aside and go make yourself some tea or something, just leave for it to dry. (Or dry it with a hairdryer, if you feel so inclined. I personally don’t like the noise of it – and I don’t have an outlet to spare for it where I paint.)
Square 5: Foreground and Island
Now in the foreground, these things should be closest to the viewer, so they should be the darkest. Mainly, they will be silhouettes. In the video, Hamilton uses some darks and greens he mixes from his colors, and I tried to do the same with the hues I have been using, mixing splotches of Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Sap Green and some Sepia in various tones to drop in the trees.
I then added the namesake, Goose Island, in the central area of the lakes with some Ultramarine, a touch of Alizarin Crimson and some Sepia. I added the reflection right afterwards, careful to leave a small gap between the land and the mirror image. I scraped some branches in, pretty well on the left, left so on the right, but it is fixable – just not at this very moment.
Let everything dry.
Square 6: Finishing Touches
Hamilton mentioned that the lake is always windy, so to suggest some movement, lift out some lines in the water, keeping perspective in mind. Larger bands closer to you, smaller as you move away. I also lifted some color from some of the mountains where they neared another mountainous ridge, to increase the contrast. Finally, I darkened the foreground bushes with another layer of the washes to make it have a bit more dimension and create more depth. Sometime in between, I dragged out some branches and trunks in the foreground, and got a bit overzealous on the right-hand side, so the second layer masked that, as well.
Also, I used a sharp edge of a waxing instrument (not the strangest thing you may find in the backpack of a dental student) to scrape out some of the areas along the banks to re-achieve that crisp white edge. This is especially true for Goose Island in the center, which did not have such an edge in the first place as it was added after the water.
Square 7: Sign it!
I normally sign with some black waterproof ink and a dip pen. I feel I have more control and create crisper lines. It just seems more professional to me than the lines I would produce with my ‘bargain’ rigger brush, which doesn’t seem to load enough for me.
I am rather pleased with this and learned several things. This was the first time I more effectively varied the tones and hues in a large solid wash, particularly in the mountain areas. These are my best mountains, so far, actually. I also liked using the clear water to bring a thick color and dilute it as I did for the valleys between the mountains, which increased contrast without having to create successively darker washes in the middle-ground. If I hadn’t, then I would have ended up with almost pitch black in the foreground to create depth (even though I think the foreground is still too light, but I did the best I knew how with the hues I was using, and I didn’t want it all to be a dark brown).
Also note that this whole painting was completed with a single flat brush, and nothing special at that.
I hope you enjoyed this, maybe you even learned something! That is why I started this, after all.