Following a very successful couple of workshops with Peter Woolley, we are going to try a self tuition project, painting in his style with 3 original photo's so as not to infringe copyright. I will lead you through step by step and your finished pictures can go in this space. If you want to join in the tuition and add your own tips, please use What's app or email or get in touch.
Step 1 Wensley waterfall - the drawing and composition
This is not an easy composition because of all the green and white so we will have to change it to make it more interesting. I've tried to make the shapes more abstract as there are a lot of straight lines and square'ish blocks. Straight lines make the viewers eye move too quickly through the composition. The light will be coming from over my right shoulder at around the 2pm position. This will allow the brightest colours to glow on the left hand side and the front of the waterfall. The top of the waterfall is is usually the lightest bit and gets the most light but we are positioned below it and can't see the top. I'm going to make the top of the waterfall misty so it recedes. The two long bits on the right hand side are for some imaginary extra trickles of water to balance the main fall - but I will make them different widths. Don't pencil your picture in as dark as mine. You'll notice once again that I don't include any detail in the edges of the picture - to keep the viewer focused in the mid range. You will see too that I have a path leading the viewer' eye into the back of the picture and the waterfall made up of lighter foam in the water. Anything else we need to do at this stage?
Step 2 - the underpainting
I've started with three colours - a pale bluish purple haze to push the top pf the waterfall back, cadmium yellow for the tree and green areas and foreground rocks on the left hand side. Make sure this layer is very light (lots of water) and use a big brush. Go and have a cup of tea.
Step 3 - the mid tones
We'll tackle the top first. After drying the paper, I'm going to spot wet the foliage areas across the top right and top left and and drop in a lightish mixture of phalo blue and cadmium yellow to form some darker patches. Don't do it all over. Remember, the lighter bits are forming your lightest leaves. Why do we dry it first? If you don't you start to life the colour underneath and form mud. Also it reduces the potential for cauliflowers. Leave it to dry.
Now move to the rocks at either side of the of half of the water fall.. I tried to drop in some different colours like raw umber and burnt umber and raw sienna into the rocks at the right hand side then scraped the rock shapes out with a credit card. I didn't work very well on the paper I'm using but it looked a bit better once it dried. On the left hand side I used cadmium and burnt umber and a touch of the tree mixture and painted it on taking care to keep the layers soft edges and to leave a few white bits for the sunlight hitting the tops of the rocks.
I then went back in and added a few darker details
Step 4 - adding some darker tones
I've darkened the bushes at the top, added some rock crevasses and defined the rocks a bit more. I got a bit scared at this point and put it away for the night. You'll notice that Ive lost the 2 little trickles I was planning to put in on the right hand side. I might try to recover the white of the paper by lifting off. If it doesn't work I'll correct it with with pastel which contains the same pigments as watercolour. to be continued....
Step 4 - undercoat for the water and shaping the rocks with mid-tone
Plucked up courage to continue with this one. I added more mid-tones to the rocks and tried to carve them out a bit. Also, added the undercoat for the water - taking care not to get too dark too soon. I added some blotches in the foregraound that will become rocks underwater when i lift off a soft edged highlight. The direction of the water was shown by dragging the bush slightly in the direction I wanted. I've lost my 2 little streams on the right hand side and tried to lift them out but it didn't work. If i still want them at the end I'll pop a bit of pastel on. On the left hand side, I darkened the top half of the rocks to push them back and make the waterfall seem further away.
Step 5 final touches
I've added another midtone to the water at the edges under the rocks. Also lifted off the top of the underwater rocks. And finally add a few cast shadows from the trees on the left and darkened the rocks mid stream and at the bottom of the cliff. Then added a couple more rock shapes into the waterfall making sure the tops were softened where the water will be hitting. Softened the right hand side of the fall to suggest mistiness. added a few more darks here and there. Finally, used masking tape to lift off the 'suggestion' of a couple of water streams (different widths) coming from the top of the rocks. Is there anything else that needs to be done? With hindisght, I wish I'd pointed my bottom falls to the right instead of the left.
Step 1 Skelwith Bridge - the drawing and composition
We are starting with the rather garish photo of Skelwith Bridge because it's a good composition. You'll notice in the drawing below I have simplified it a lot, concentrating only on capturing the big shapes. I have also included as many abstract shapes as I can. Why do you think I've gone for abstract shapes? Why do you think I've got hardly anything in the sides and bottom of the picture? I suggest once you are happy with the composition that you pencil it in lightly on your paper.
Step 2 - the underpainting (the lightest tones)
We are going to do the sky and the trees first. Peter would use phalo blue and cadmium yellow for this bit which he pre-mixes separately. Use a big brush and wet the paper down to the top of the bridge and extend it down each side a little avoiding the place where your tree trunks are gong to be and stopping at the water line on the right hand side. Don't worry if it runs into the bridge. When the sheen has gone off the paper, drop in some patches of phalo blue for the sky and across a few of the trees in random brush marks. Don't try to fill in the whole lot but leave space for your cadmium yellow which you are going to wash across the top and middle of the trees. Where it meets the blue it will bleed into it forming a light green. Odd blue patches will act as sky holes in the trees. Remember this wash is going to be your lightest colour so don't be heavy handed. Now make a cup of tea and let it dry.
Step 3 - the mid tones
Continuing with the trees for the moment we are going to add in some clumps and dots. The clumps will form the biggest areas of leaves and the dots will be the odd leaves on the outside edges Remember for this 2nd layer that we need to leave lots of random areas unpainted as this will allow the first layer to shine through as clumps of lighter leaves. For this stage, Peter mixed his phalo blue and cadmium yellow together to form a mid green. If you have any comments or question so far ask them on Whats app or email.
Step 4 - underpainting for the bottom half of the painting.
This stage will be wet on dry. We'll start with the bridge. Get a nice cool grey mix using ultramarine and burnt umber and a flat brush to add detail to the wall. Leave some highlights for the tops of some of the stones where the light might hit. Include the underside of the bridge.. Add a tiny spot of alizarin crimson to the same mix to paint the undercoat on some of the rocks in the foreground - again, remembering to leave some white at the top of the rocks for highlights. Its a good idea to clump some of the rocks into bigger groups so the viewer doesn't get tired of looking at every pebble. Use a stronger mix of of ultamarine and burnt umber for the tree trunks. Paint it down the left hand side side of the trunk and then soften it off by running a damp brush along side letting the paint bleed into the damp area to create a rounded effect. Go back to your cadmium yellow for the green grass on the banks. Wash that in lightly and drop in some phalo blue and burnt umber to create variation . Remember this is still an undercoat so it should be a weak mixture. We will leave the water until last.
Step 4 darker tones
Add darker ones of the same colour mix into your trees. Use a light tone of burnt umber for the top of your rocks - still leaving some white highlights. Add a little cadium yellow to vary the tones. Remember to get slightly warmer mixes as you move into the foreground. Put your mid tone on the bridge (same colour mix as before) and again keep it quite weak and remember to leave the lighter tones showing through in places. Can you see that I've left some reflected light showing on the much darker underside of the bridge? Its hard work to do it, but I'm still trying to keep all my shapes as abstract as I can. When it's finished, the 4 corners should all be different and every couple of inches should be different to hold the viewer's attention. My bridge looks flat from one side to the other so I'm going to vary the colour a bit making the far side a little darker in tone. The same needs to be done from top to bottom. If you can spot other things that I can do or change, don't hesitate to let me know.
Step 5 undercoat for the water (lightest tones)
If we squint at the original photo we can see the lightest tones are down the middle of the river, with blueish tones on the left and greenish tomes on the right. In the foreground are some short grasses giving a burnt umber tone. The water is more ultramarine blue further back. The blue in the foreground is reflecting the phalo blue of the sky. I paint the water wet on dry, leaving white edges around the top of the rocks (or trying to) The right hand side of the water is treated like the trees with some blobs of cadmium yellow and phalo blue mixed in large blobs. Just as an aside, its useful for checking your tonal values if you remember that the sky is almost always the lightest part of a landscape (because it gets the most light), the horizonal areas like grass and water are usually the next lightest (a mid light value) and the vertical masses like trees are usually a mid or a mid dark value. Another mistake I've spotted is that my rocks aren't round enough for river rocks. I should have softened off the hard edges with a damp brush before the paint dried.
Step 6 the second water coat (mid tone)
We leave the lighter parts of the water with just one coat but add another coat of colour to the darker areas. which are overhung by the trees. Try to vary the colour a little but stick with the few colours we've used already as that promotes colour harmony. I've made a mess of my rocks by dividing them up too small but will try to correct that in the final stage. I've also just noticed that the right hand side bank is falling away too much so I will correct that too. One more thing you must remember is to keep all your water strokes horizontal as water doesn't flow uphill and it can be disconcerting when you see that. Also, you will notice that I have ignored the burnt umber grasses in the foreground - might put them in at the final stage.
Final Stage - shadows and tidying up, adding fine detail
Peter uses a weak mix of ultramarine and burnt umber for his shadows. They are both very transparent colours and the colour underneath can still come through. I often add a hint of alizarin or purple to warm the shadows up. The light is coming from the right hand side at about 2 o'clock. So where are the shadows? They will be mostly to the left of everything - trees, bushes and rocks. Use your shadows to define the shape of the bank sides and the shape of the rocks and remember that the lower leaves of the trees will also be affected by shadows. Shadows of branches will affect the tree trunks and will be curved slightly around the tree. The bridge should have cast shadow from the bushes on the right and the base of the bridge on the right will get less light than the base of the bridge on the left. Use a small brush at this stage to finish off the details and branches. Have a cup of tea. Look again at your picture. Take a photo of it or look at it in the mirror and decide if anything is irritating you. No? Well done - go and have a bar of chocolate and send your picture to me.