Autumn has a distinctive odour. The fermentation of vegetation in the warm days before the onset of Winter. Nothing evokes memories as much as a scent. The ‘back to school’ days, wine making, gathering windfall apples, turf smoke in the evenings, long nights, memories carried in the mists of Autumn. Conveying the effect of mist in a painting is always a challenge.
This small painting (12″x9″) was an exercise in getting the effect of mist and shadows using the alla prima method. As you probably know, this means wet on wet, one session painting. Painting skies is, in fact, painting mist, and wet on wet is an advantage in blending and softening edges to produce the soft ‘fluffy’ appearance. This is relatively easy as the tonal range in sky colours is supposed to be narrow and blending colours does narrow this range. The darks get lighter and the lights get darker as the blending progresses.
If a mist is required in association with extreme shadows the situation can get messy and the main reason for the mess is the white paint. This does not mix well with shadow colours and care has to be taken lest the painting turn into a featureless smudge. Allowing under layers to dry really doesn’t help. Dark dry under layers overlaid with lighter opaque colour will either obliterate it completely if the layer is too thick, or be an insipid patchy white, if too thin. Alternatively, leaving the white canvas or a light coloured dry paint layer, and over painting in dark transparent layers (glazing) will give a colour too rich to represent the softness of mist. So blending colour already laid down, in a controlled way, does produce the desired effect without protracted painting and repainting. A limited palette also helps, remember, the greater the number of different pigments in the mixes, the greater the chance of producing a dull mess.
This painting has just three colours. The same as the last few paintings, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Yellow and Prussian Blue. These work together well. Again, there was no medium added, only White Spirits. As usual I recorded the painting process as well as the palette and will post soon. See you then.