I have had the photo reference for this painting for about a year after seeing it on wet canvas. I have always wanted to try it. I hear so much about not making muddy colors with pigment and agree that they are not “pretty”. However, there are some subjects that almost beg for some degrees of ” mud”. That was my first challenge. The second was that I wanted to try to work something textural on the Arches 140lb hotpress watercolor paper I have been experimenting with. I have not done many night paintings so this seemed like an adventure to me.
In the first step, I wet the entire surface of the paper and fed in my background colors of magnesium blue, permanent rose, a little lemon yellow in the center, and a mixture of halloween orange and magnesium blue to make the gray for the sky and strip of gray in the foreground. I dried that with a hairdryer prior to starting to paint the trees.
In the second step I mixed colors like hookers green, burnt sienna or ultrmarine blue and olive green to make the greens and warm tones I saw in the trees. I painted trunks, branches and fir trees moving my brush in a way to create textures throughout. This was a very lengthy process as I had to move from lighter tones into darker tones. Oftentimes my strokes looked too defined so I would blot, while still wet, with a non-lotion tissue. This created the effect of some of the trees being in the foreground and others distant. It also helped to make this appear more like a night scene that blurs together.
In the next step, I softened all the trees by taking a wet 2 inch flat and lightly blurring all the tree shapes together. I then darkened the night sky with ultramarine blue mixed to a blue-gray with a little halloween orange and washed a very light wash of permanent rose through that gray while it was still wet. I softened all hard edges in the sky, as I went, by tickling their edges with a thirsty brush. I built up the darks under the trees with burnt sienna and hookers green allowing them to mix together on the paper. I was careful to leave the little path you see leading into the woods in the lower right quadrant. I felt that created a little interest and mystery as did the warm light behind the trees.
In the final step I mixed sepia with hookers green and darkened the foreground firs. After that dried, I used titanium white to indicate snow on the foreground firs and the trunks and branches of the deciduous trees.