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This was a project I began because I was interested in the stark contrast between the dark tunnel and the scene beyond. Like the previous post, “A Secret Place”,  I found this image on the wet canvas site.  This took much longer to create than I had anticipated.  I didn’t realise how much I had to move between organic and geometric shapes.  I figured I would just render an impressionistic landscape and surround it with darks. NOT! I had to study warmth of the shadow on the water, fading out the building in the scene, making the posts and rails of the guard rail believable, and drawing the oblique shape of the opening of the tunnel accurately. The tunnel and the sidewalk were both cooler and darker than the shadow reflected on the surface of the water and it was a challenge to balance the two so that it read right.  I worked on this, on and off, for the last two weeks and practiced many of the washes on a separate piece of watercolor paper.

Last night I saw a really beautiful painting done with a strong contrast between light and dark on David Tripp’s Blog here.


  1. Wow! This is gorgeous! Watercolour is so right for this. I love the colours you have reflected in the water and I think the perspective works fine. The oblique shape of the tunnel opening is inspired! Another good one from you Leslie!

    • Thank-you, Echostains. It was so much harder to pull off than I thought when I started, so your comment makes me feel super good.

  2. It looks as if all the time and effort was worth it.
    I like how the tunnel frames the painting and your eye follows the fence to the tree. Brilliant!

    • Thank-you, Richard. That was one of my reasons for doing this piece, also. It was like, “follow the railing”!

  3. This is such a beautiful rendition of light. It shows how sensitive you are to what you are really seeing. I find it particularly interesting because this is the type of scene that proves too much for a camera. The luminance range is so extreme that either the shadows or the highlights blow out. The human eye, however, is much more finely tuned. This has that quality about it. It is wonderful work!

    • Thank-you, Kirsty. You just explained a problem I had with the photo reference for this. In the reference photo, everything behind that dominant tree branch whitened-out. I painted it like that and had to ad-lib the building fade and the blurry section of the far bank as it wound around the bend because it didn’t look right in the painting like in the reference material. Thank-you for teaching me that.

  4. i believe you.
    There is so much activity in this.
    You did really well to make it believable.
    this one has wow factor

    • Thanks, Kokot. I remembered your wharf painting and the river moving into the distance as I painted this. The dominance of the foreground is similar . …thank-you for that statement of “wow factor”.

  5. Absolutely gorgeous. The watercolor is perfect. Wow! I love it!

    • Tacy, thank-you so much. I love having a young visitor, especially one who knows something about color and art.

  6. THis is very effective, and spectacular. I believe I am there !

    • Oh thank-you, Isabelle. You have made my day saying you believe you are there. I wanted the viewer to feel as though they were standing in the tunnel.

  7. This is gorgeous and so intriguing, Leslie! I love that you keep the images large enough that I can really look at it. The perspective is mind boggling! You really accomplished something amazing here! Oh, and the colors are wonderful!

    • I usually click medium when I insert these. If I click large, it cuts off a portion of the composition and is too large to be viewed on the screen. If something is too small to see, a click will enlarge it. Thank-you, Beth, your comments are totally appreciated. 🙂

  8. I completely understand the challenge of rendering a landscape littered with the organic completely intermingled with straight lined, geometric architecture … It is an extremely unexpected and frustrating experience sometimes. However the irony of it, is it was this combination of opposites that attracted you to the image in the first place and in the end what make the painting so beautiful and interesting to look at. Thanks for sharing, I really enjoy this piece!

    • Thank-you, Jenna. You are so right on that. You do such a good job with it. I loved your cottages intermingled with the foliage and those lake scenes. Thank-you for coming by!

  9. At first I thought the shape was that of an eye with a reflection. The angle and contrast is so terrific, and the rail just seems to draw you into the background. You are amazing!

    • I have to give the credit to the photographer on the composition part of it, though. It was a great reference to work from. I felt the same way about that railing. It took me forever to get that little light sprinkling of shadow just the right tint at the end of the walkway as you step out into the light. Thank-you, Ryan.

  10. Leslie, I absolutely LOVE this piece. The point of view is intriguing and immediately draws your attention further into the painting. I love the colors and your use of light. Beautiful.

    • Thanks, Bree! It is kind of like a spotlight on the sunny side.

  11. Oh, I can see some of the areas of struggle, especially moving from in to out of the tunnel. You know what I like . . . it looks a bit like an eye in shape, reflecting the world it views. Nice exercise. You should try another one.

    • You got it, Yousei. It had to be convincing. I hope I got it close enough. It does look like the shape of an eye. Thank-you for that. It is said that the viewer is attracted to arrangements that they are familiar with, so the idea of peering through an eye might be instrumental in the intrigue (even for me in my selection process).

  12. Thank you, Leslie! That’s so nice of you to say. I really appreciate it. Thanks again! 🙂

  13. I love the shadows and the use of color. It feels very “secret garden” in that you are veiled from others viewing you while you enjoy the view!

    I really like the perspective.

    • Thanks Nancy! I never thought about that “secret garden” idea, but that is so cool. Thanks!

  14. It is great, Leslie. I had the same thought as Ryan – it looks like an eye. Great colors and intriguing composition – lovely to look at.

    • Thanks, Alex. You know I never connected with what everyone is saying while I was creating this, I was working so hard on just getting it down believably and with similar color. Phew!

  15. J’ADORE!!!!!!!
    It’s my favorite painting. The theme and the colors are just magnificent!
    Thank you, Leslie for sharing with us this beautiful view.

    Have a special day, my friend! 🙂

    • Thank-you, Alina. I like it when I paint something that becomes a favorite for someone.

  16. Your composition is intriguing and the values make this painting so wonderful. Nice work on the reflections. I can feel them shimmering on the water.

    • Thank-you, thank-you, Linda. I liked that reflection and hoped I could make it look half-way decent. It was like that, greenish on one side and a warm brown on the other. Of course, the light was toward the greenish side of the reflection and the river was that silty-green color we have here in the midwest. I’m sure those factors had something to do with the reason the reflections appeared so.

  17. Leslie, what really impresses me with this painting (and many others that you’ve done) is how all the elements come together to actually give a sense of PLACE. Not just a “pretty picture” but an actual place not only in sight, but in sound, smell, touch and sometimes even taste. These elements are present too in this painting and so it evokes a certain mood, drawing from my own memories and experiences.

    The light reflecting from the water at the top of the tunnel is a lovely extra touch.


    • You just made my day, today, Joshua. I battle with: How real should I make this? Is the distortion, here, going to disturb what I’m trying to say? Is it o’kay that I’ve pushed the color to no transparency, here? Thank-you for this comment because I try to put as much of myself into something I create as I possibly can. Sometimes that means less than a “pretty picture”. So thank-you. I’ll hold onto this comment as I work.

  18. Whoa! There should be a warning on this post for anyone who has claustrophobia issues with being in tunnels!!! They better watch out. You have captured this beautifully. The depth of the painting is incredible. I really feel like I’m inside a tunnel looking out along the long walkway. You’ve done an incredible job with capturing the architectural images with the organic ones.

    I love the tree and all the foliage and the reflections on the water. This is a unique and beautiful painting.

  19. And I have to agree with Josh, I think the light of the water reflecting on the tunnel ceiling really gives it that extra oomph and makes you feel like you’re in the tunnel looking out.

    (did I mention that I’m a little claustrophobic and my heart is pounding a bit)

    • Carol, thank-you tons. I needed these comments if I was to push for this kind of contrast again. I truly worked forever on it and almost didn’t post it because I went so dark. Some watercolor critics wouldn’t want an artist to push past the transparency stage like I did with the darks. If an artist doesn’t, how can they express themselves on some compositions that may call for it? LOL Serious about the claustrophobic? I feel that way in elevators at times.

  20. Leslie, what a thoughtful description of the challenges involved in this painting of many contrasts. With your careful analysis you were certainly able to establish the space between the tunnel and the building and everything in between. Nice job.

    • Thank-you Alix. For a long time, I could not understand why I would learn one thing in classes and another when I read in magazines and books. I decided that the classes were supplying me with technique,ideas, and vocabulary and the magazines and books were sharing pushing the boundaries and expressing self. Both are needed to feel completely free to create was the conclusion I came to.

  21. I really like this painting; enjoying your blog. Thank you for sharing your work.

    • Hi Adam. Thank-you for visiting and for the positive comment. Do you have a blog?

  22. This is so beautiful, your talent is amazing. Feel like I’m actually walking out of the tunnel into the light.

    • Thank-you, Paintedbrush. I ws hoping I could pull that off so the viewer felt he/she was there.

  23. Oh, wow, Leslie. That reflection on the top of the tunnel really draws the eye back into the tunnel itself. Beautifully done, my friend. See dreary light here, but maybe tomorrow?

    • Thank-you, Kate. That reflected light had more definition in the photograph. It actually reflected the shadow of the dominant tree from the surface of the water upward. I decided to use a yellowy-green like the water of the river fearing that I might put the attention of the viewer on the reflection rather than the scene at the end of the tunnel if I did that. That is just some of what I think about and sense when I paint from a photo reference. I try to imagine what I might see if I was really there and omit from the reference those things I probably would not notice or think of as important to what I was seeing. It is giving me a new-found respect for photographers and all they have to consider.

  24. This painting is wonderful! I really like the contrast. You did a great job.

    • Thank-you, Little Lynx! This one took forever! The contrast was what I was trying to achieve, so I’m glad you picked up on that.

  25. love, love, love it! The deep shadows are rich and dark without being muddy, and you can “feel” the sun glare, great job!
    is this done wet on wet? Also, what type of paper do you use?

    • Thank-you, Karen. I use 140lb Arches coldpress most of the time (this painting is on the Arches). I recently found Saunders Waterford 300lb to be a wonderful paper but must use up hoardes of my other paper, here. I also like Cartiera Magnani 140lb coldpress or rough for watercolor sketches that don’t require many layers.

  26. This just became my new favorite of yours. Awesome!

    • Hi Joe!
      Thanks for the visit! I enjoy your blog, also. This was truly a challenge for me with those darks so YOU just made my day!

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