I’m continuing to focus on values with my 3-A-Week Challenge, as a part of my online study with Matt Smith. I like the way he breaks his course down into four main fundamentals of drawing, value, design, and color. I chose a photo from our Zion National Park trip a few years ago because it has a clear, simple, limited value scheme.
The notan plan helped get me prepared for identifying the major shapes and values. I knew the in-shadow portion of the painting would have more going on than the sunlit areas. So in that large white area on the right, I added some dark shapes that follow the angle of the hill and add interest so it wasn’t overly simple.
My palette was based on two pairs of complementary colors plus yellow:
- quinacridone violet
- ultramarine blue
- thalo yellow green
- burnt sienna
- cadmium yellow
- titanium white
It took many adjustments to get the reflected light in the shadow areas looking the way I wanted. That whole shape on the left started out way too dark and I just kept lightening bit by bit until it finally had a sense of sunlight. There’s a warning given by professional landscape painters that goes something like this: “Don’t put too many light values in the dark value masses or else you’ll break up that shape into a bunch of smaller, disconnected shapes!” A warning I’ve clearly taken way too literally for many months :P
With this painting, I definitely wanted to keep the value contrast I saw in the reference, but I allowed myself to nudge things lighter and lighter until I really started to feel the sensation of light in the scene. I’m super happy with that aspect of it. I’m less happy about the bushes in the middle and lower right because the scale is so off. But it was time to wrap up for the day and I was fine calling that area good enough.
And now I’m wondering how many hours it would take to drive from North Carolina to Zion…