Earthbound Artist

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The Making of 'Superior Gems'

12 September, 2018 2 comments Leave a comment

 Superior Gems, watercolour by Karen Richardson

All my life, I have felt the magnetic pull of stone, from mountains to boulders to pebbles to grains of sand. Perhaps it was my childhood spent near Algonquin Park, surrounded by the terrain of the Canadian Shield, that makes me instinctively drawn to rock-filled wilderness scenery.

Many people I meet at art shows or in my art classes are as captivated by beach pebbles as I. We often talk about our shared fascination with smooth stones, especially those displaying unusual colours or interesting patterns.

During a classroom chat, one of my painting students suggested I would enjoy a visit to Pebble Beach in the town of Marathon on Lake Superior's northern shore.

A few months later, travels took my husband and I by that location, and we made a point to check out this beach. Am I ever glad we did! Shown below is the view looking eastward from the entrance path.

Photo of Pebble Beach (view eastwards) at Marathon, Ontario by Karen Richardson

Marathon's Pebble Beach is composed of smooth round stones the size of citrus fruits - from limes to grapefruits. The colours are rich and varied, especially when the stones are wet, and many have interesting stripes or other markings. One wonders how stones from many different rocky origins ended up in one place. I was glad I had my hiking boots on, as walking on these piles of shifting 'bowling balls' with camera in hand was a tricky prospect. Shown below is the westward view along Pebble Beach.

Photo of Pebble Beach (view westwards) at Marathon, Ontario by Karen Richardson

I visited there shortly after a rain shower - what I call a 'soft' day. I loved the combination of vividly coloured stones and misty background.

Recently I completed my first painting of this beach (shown at the top of this post) and am totally thrilled with it. I chose a low point of view for the composition to give the stones more prominence, and I selected the title because these stones are as breathtaking as jewels to me.

I photographed each step of my painting process and created a one-minute time lapse video, to show you the flow of this painting's creation. Click on the picture below to view the video and get an idea of how I work.

 

I am looking forward to doing more paintings of this remarkable beach. If you are a 'rockaholic' like me, you will understand my compulsion.

For more information about this painting, click here.

Do you have favourite spots on Lake Superior I should visit? If you have suggestions or comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more of her painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

The Making of 'Holding On'

18 July, 2018 0 comments Leave a comment

Holding On, watercolour by Karen Richardson

My camping trips to Lake Superior last summer and this spring continue to inspire new paintings. This region of Ontario has become one of my top Canadian travel destinations, and every time I visit there the landscape absolutely captivates me.

For my latest painting in the Lake Superior series, I decided to invent a scene using diverse photographic references. The genesis of the idea was a photo I took years ago in Algonquin Park, of pine tree roots grasping what appeared to be solid rock. I saved this photo for decades, and knew it would make a great painting concept one day.

Lake Superior viewed from Rossport, Ontario, photo by Karen Richardson

For the background, I used the actual view of islands in Lake Superior at Rossport, Ontario (shown above). For the foreground I used a photo of a hardwood tree trunk and roots that I captured on the Bruce Peninsula a few years ago. The rocks I made up, loosely inspired by my photos taken on the Lake Superior waterfront trail at Rossport.

Fortunately I had the foresight to take photos of each stage of this challenging painting as I worked on it. From these work-in-progress photos, I assembled an 80-second time lapse video, so viewers could see the flow of this piece to its completion. Click on the picture below to view the video.

Since I did not have one reference photo of the total scene, I really stretched my design, drawing, and painting skills for this project. I had to evaluate after each step and decide what needed to be done next to make the scene look more real. And I had to make sure the lighting and mood of the background and foreground remained consistent.

When I viewed the completed painting, I had a compelling urge to visit this imaginary place, to sit in the shade of this tree, feel the breeze on my face, smell the clean air, and admire the magnificent view. Can you feel it too?

For more information about this painting, click here.

What does 'Holding On' say to you? If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more of her painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

The Making of 'Crystal Clear'

04 June, 2018 1 comment Leave a comment

Photo of Lake Superior by Karen Richardson

Last summer, I was thrilled to spend some time camping along the north shore of Lake Superior, not far from the rocky point shown above (you can read about my trip at Exploring Lake Superior - At Last).

I came home with an extensive collection of reference photos to inspire new paintings. The combination of a world-class variety of colourful rocks and stones and extremely clear water makes for awesome painting subjects. I have completed several excellent pieces, and described some of my painting processes in these articles The Superior Paintings Begin and The Making of 'Listen to the Lake'.

The scene above is in Rainbow Falls Provincial Park (Rossport) and was the subject of a three day advanced workshop I taught in my Lindsay studio. Shown below are the steps involved in capturing this scene in a watercolour painting. There is also a short video of part of the early painting process.

Crystal Clear, watercolour in progress, by Karen Richardson

After drawing the scene in pencil on 300 lb cold press watercolour paper (above), I used masking fluid to mask out the twigs and leaves of the shrubbery and the three small rocks sticking out of the water. This temporary protective coating preserved the white paper for a later painting stage. Then I painted a layer of warm gray in the reflection of the far point.

I mixed blue and gray washes (below), using test strips of watercolour paper to verify the colours were accurate to my reference photo. All the colours in this painting were mixed from primary colours blue, red, and yellow.

Crystal Clear, watercolour in progress, by Karen Richardson

After I wet the paper where the highlight would be off the end of the point (below), I started painting with the blue mixture for the upper portion of the lake water, gradually blending in the gray mixture as I worked into the lower portion of the lake water.

Crystal Clear, watercolour in progress, by Karen Richardson

One of my students took a video of me painting just this section above, while I explained what I was doing, and why. Anyone interested in the details of this process will want to click on the image below to view the 10-minute video.

In the photo below, I have painted the gray shadow layer on the large rock outcroppings. I like to paint my shadows first, while I can see my pencil lines clearly.

Crystal Clear, watercolour in progress, by Karen Richardson

Shown below, after the shadow layer dried, I re-wet the rocks with clear water, added quick strokes of tan and gray, then sprinkled salt on top. Each grain of salt absorbed a bit of paint, leaving a pale splotch in the colour. When fully dry, the salt was brushed off. I also painted the first layer of the distant shore hills and penciled in the outlines of the underwater stones.

Crystal Clear, watercolour in progress, by Karen Richardson

In the photo below, I masked out the shapes of lichens in the foreground rock, and deepened the gray shadows with more paint. In the background rock, I used dry brush 'scumbling' to suggest rock colours and textures. The shadow layer was added to the distant shoreline.

Crystal Clear, watercolour in progress, by Karen Richardson

In the photo below, I have removed the masking from the foreground rock, revealing the lichen shapes. Using negative painting techniques, I painted outside of each underwater rock shape. When fully dry, I removed the masking from the shrubbery and stones, revealing the white paper. 

Crystal Clear, watercolour in progress, by Karen Richardson

The final step was to paint the leaves, twigs, and three stones above the water level. The mounted and framed painting, Crystal Clear, is shown below. For more details about this finished work, click here

Crystal Clear, watercolour on panel by Karen Richardson

What does this scene say to you? If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more of her painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

Treefrog - Hiding in Plain Sight

04 June, 2018 7 comments Leave a comment

One Two Treefrog, watercolour by Karen Richardson

One day I was reviewing some wildlife photos I had taken years ago, and came across a snapshot of a tiny tree frog that visited my Port Perry patio one day. The frog, an expert in camouflage, looked exactly like a flattened round pebble.

If you know me at all, it will come as no surprise that I tend to bring home stones from my travels. I have a large collection of interesting specimens displayed on the window sills in my studio and often feature these pebbles in my paintings.

I decided to paint a horizontal lineup of the frog with two similar stones from my travels last summer. One stone was from the Maritimes and the other was from Lake Superior. I made a short time-lapse video to show my creation of this amusing little painting, so you could see the steps involved. I think it is vastly interesting, even to those who are not painters, and I hope you do too. Just click on the image below to view the 90-second clip.

If you would like more details about the finished piece, click here.

What do you think of my wee frog? If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more of her painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

My Interview with Cogeco TV

23 April, 2018 0 comments Leave a comment

My Lindsay studio was the setting for a video that Cogeco TV filmed last year. Mike Sloboda hosted the half hour interview as part of his 'All Around The Town' series, and it was a sincere pleasure to converse with Mike.

Recently, I came across a snippet from this interview, and thought you might enjoy a glimpse of my art studio and my artist's story. This 3-minute summary captures the highlights of my art background and why I paint; shows me in my studio; and includes some time lapse sequences of paintings being created.

Just click on the image below to view the video.

If you have any comments to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post.

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter to learn more about the life of a professional artist and her travel tales, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

Fitting In a Winner

15 April, 2018 1 comment Leave a comment

Fitting In, watercolour by Karen Richardson    

Last fall, I created this watercolour painting from a photo taken in Nova Scotia during our 2017 Maritime trip.

I love the apparent simplicity of this composition, with three smooth pebbles sitting in a cleft of weathered driftwood. But the image implies a more complex meaning to me; one of shelter, security, togetherness, and family.

When the painting was completed, I posted a picture of it on Facebook, to ask my online friends for suggestions for a title. The image got a strong response, with about 50 title ideas coming forward. The one I selected was 'Fitting In', but I made note of all the suggestions, to use on future paintings I am creating in a series about cracks and crevices. An artist friend also suggested I add a living creature to the driftwood cleft, peeking over the stones. Hmmm... food for thought.

Karen Richardson with her painting 'Fitting In' at the 2017 PineRidge Juried Art Exhibition.

Then I entered 'Fitting In' in the This Is Home painting competition, sponsored by Artwork Archive. My artwork took first place with over 800 votes on Facebook, winning the Voter's Choice award of US$300. A few weeks later, two of my paintings, including 'Fitting In', were accepted into the PineRidge Arts Council 18th Annual Juried Art Exhibition (shown above). This competition had 190 pieces submitted by 103 artists, with only 65 paintings being accepted into the show by the juror.

During this time, I recognized that this image would be an excellent subject for a watercolour class, allowing me to teach several key aspects, such as choosing a focal point, contrasting light and dark, depicting smooth and rough textures, and mixing subdued colours, to name a few.

So this spring, I taught this subject twice in classes held in my Lindsay studio, and my instincts were correct; my students LOVED painting this scene and learning all I could impart along the way. They used actual stones from my rock collection as reference, to make their creations unique.

Here are photos of my students with their finished pieces:

Weathered Wood and Stones, 2-day watercolour class by Karen Richardson

Weathered Wood and Stones, 2-day watercolour class by Karen Richardson

Several of the students made comments after class:

"I learn so much when I take workshops with you. You have such a fantastic knowledge base. You explain the why as well as the how! Painting in your studio, surrounded by your incredible paintings, is such an inspiration. And you are a joy as a teacher! Thanks a million for an incredible time!" ~Diane S.

"We had such a wonderful time. I learned SO much about handling watercolour and how to achieve different textures. The "ah ha" moment for me was learning how to mix all those subtle colours from just three primaries. Karen is an awesome teacher who is able to convey so much of her knowledge and experience to her students." ~Jan Z.

"Thank you so much for the whole experience. It was such an inspiring and educational two days. I know that is due to your organization, presentation and overall thoughtfulness of your students. I did not really believe I could leave that workshop with a piece of art that resembled what Jan had shown me after she attended the 'Pebbles' workshop. What an amazing feeling that was... Thank you again for sharing your expertise and delighting in the pleasure that your 'gift' brings others." ~Roz G.

I made a new demonstration painting during each session, to show the students various painting techniques, and I decided to add a living creature to each one, to make paintings that were different from my first version. Here are the three paintings shown as a series:

Fitting In, watercolour by Karen Richardson   Curiosity, watercolour by Karen Richardson   A Moment's Rest, watercolour by Karen Richardson

In considering appropriate titles, I first came up with 'Fitting In', 'Sitting In', and 'Flitting In' for the series. Then I thought, since possibly these three paintings will end up in the hands of separate collectors, the humour might be lost. I decided a more appropriate title for the version with the squirrel would be 'Curiosity', and for the version with the butterfly, 'A Moment's Rest'. I would love to hear your thoughts on titles.

These three paintings, part of a group of almost 40 pieces, will be on display at my Spring Open Studio (weekend of April 28 and 29, 1 to 5 pm) in Lindsay. I hope you can meet the trio in person. One can't help but smile when seeing them.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please let Karen know by clicking on the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post.

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more of her painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

The Making of 'Listen to the Lake'

01 April, 2018 4 comments Leave a comment

Every now and then, I find myself in complete awe of a painting I have finished. Somehow, my creation is greater than the sum of its parts. It simply makes my spirit soar. I am drawn to step into that scene and breathe in the scent of pine trees on the gentle breeze, or pick up a special stone, a relic entrusted to us by antiquity, and feel its smooth solidity in my hand.

Listen to the Lake, watercolour by Karen Richardson

My latest beach scene from Lake Superior, 'Listen to the Lake', has had this effect on me. My gaze is captured by luminous waves and I can hear the lapping water of that peaceful shore. I love the punch of colour provided by the lime-green lichen on the large boulder, and the way the distant headlands fade into the mist. I want to be in this special place.

Fortunately, I had the foresight to take a photo of each stage of this watercolour painting as I created it, allowing me to produce a 90-second video of the making of 'Listen to the Lake':

What does 'Listen to the Lake' say to you? If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more of her painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

The Making of 'Northern Reflections'

05 March, 2018 2 comments Leave a comment

I grew up in the Canadian Shield region of Canada, just east of Algonquin Park. The northern Ontario landscape of my childhood - lakes, rivers, pine trees, sand, and rock - remains vividly in my mind to this day. The majority of my paintings contain one or more of these landscape elements.

Karen Richardson on Stoney Lake

The last few summers, my husband and I visited with long-time friends at their cottage on Stoney Lake in central Ontario. The above photo of me was taken on their boat when we were cruising the lake.

I have taken many beautiful photographs of the scenery on Stoney, which looks similar in many ways to the region in which I spent my childhood. The photo below is the view from our friends' dock.

Photo of Stoney Lake by Karen Richardson

I decided this would be a great reference photo for a six-week advanced watercolour class I taught at Meta4 Gallery in Port Perry last fall. The scene had interesting reflections, rocks, mosses, lily pads, and tree trunks.

Here are some photos of my students at work on their paintings.

Students in Karen Richardson's watercolour class

Students in Karen Richardson's watercolour class

Below are photographs of my demonstration painting, showing how it progressed. The lower half is already finished. I used a new and unusual method for painting the reflections on the water, and became so engrossed in the process that I forgot to pause and take photos in those earlier stages. 

Northern Reflections, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson.

In the first photo (above), the base layer has been applied to the rocks, moss, and forest greenery. Salt was sprinkled on the stone and moss while the paint was wet, to create a textured effect. When dry, the salt was brushed off.

 Northern Reflections, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

In the second photo (above), the upper left quadrant has the second layer done. I used two-brush technique, (one brush loaded with paint and the second brush loaded with water), working on dry paper. This allows control of the paint flow to a minute degree.

Northern Reflections, watercolour in progress by Karen Richardson

In the third photo (above), the second layer of paint has been applied to the upper right quadrant. The painting is about 95% finished at this point. The remaining steps are to go over the whole painting, adding more dark shadows into the forest background, and adding more texture to rocks and moss using a dry-brush technique.

Karen Richardson with her watercolour students

The photo above shows me and my students with our finished paintings. Everyone did an amazing job and enjoyed learning some new techniques. No two paintings looked alike, even though we used the same reference photo.

Northern Reflections, watercolour by Karen Richardson 

Here is a photo of the finished painting in its frame. Northern Reflections, watercolour, 16 x 20". I am very pleased with the way it turned out. When I look at my painting, I feel like I am back in a little piece of heaven on a northern lake. Click here for more details about this piece.

What is your favourite region to visit? If you have comments you wish to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. 

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

The Artist's Studio

05 February, 2018 9 comments Leave a comment

Karen Richardson's Studio

At the end of last year, I took some time to catch up on paperwork in my studio office, finish some framing, and do a general studio tidy-up. Once that was done, everything looked so uncluttered and clean I took some photos to show you what a working artist's studio looks like. I also want to share with you some key features that make my creative space both comfortable and efficient. Welcome to your personal virtual studio tour!

When you come down the stairs to enter my studio, you see the panorama shown above. It is an L-shaped space, with my creative area on the left and my gallery and teaching space on the right.

Our home is a bungalow with 8' ceilings on both levels. In the lower level, large above-ground windows face west and north, to fill the space with light so it doesn't feel like a basement. We added four 2' x 4' LED ceiling light fixtures that greatly enhance the natural illumination.

Karen Richardson's Studio

The photo above shows my studio office. The desk and black file cabinet on the right house my computer and day-to-day office files and reference binders. On top are white photo storage boxes containing reference photos I have taken, sorted by subject matter and season. I take thousands of photos but just print the ones I think I may use as painting reference some day.

The white bookcase on the left mainly holds my collection of painting technique reference books, plus office stationary. The glass doors keep the dust out and make it easy to find what I'm looking for. The window in the middle is the one on which my wild turkey visitor knocked last month.

Karen Richardson's Studio

The photo above shows my office and creative space. On the left is my trusty collapsible print rack that I take to art shows as well as use in the studio, to display my giclee prints and matted paintings. The small bookshelf in front displays Watercolour Toolbox, the art instruction book I wrote. On top of the desk hutch is the satellite radio receiver that supplies whatever genre of music I choose, to keep me company as I work. Mostly I listen to soft rock or quiet jazz.

On the back wall is the tiny gas fireplace we added to this space, to make it cosy in cooler weather. I have it on all day, every day in winter. To the right of that, under the north window, is the drafting table where I do most of my painting. The working surface is 3' x 4', large enough for a full sheet of watercolour paper plus reference photos displayed to the sides.

In front of that is a desk credenza just over 5' long, that is very handy for assembling frames or doing any job needing a large horizontal surface. When one of my painting buddies comes here, she works at this desk while I paint at the drafting table.

Karen Richardson's Studio

To the right of my drafting table is an Ikea cabinet I bought over 30 years ago. It primarily stores unused framing materials, painting supports, paint palettes, paint tubes, and rags. The photo above shows it with the doors open. The adjustable shelves are 24" x 30", so this cabinet stores a lot of stuff.

Karen Richardson's Studio

Continuing around my creative space to the right, I have a black flat file cabinet that holds an astounding amount of watercolour paper, paintings in progress, brushes and other art supplies, office supplies, giclee prints, art card supplies, and archival bags. I bought this used metal cabinet from one of my framing suppliers when they no longer needed it, and I had it repainted at an automotive paint shop. Each of the ten drawers is 2' x 3' inside, so that is 60 square feet of horizontal storage in total. I love the efficiency of this cabinet! 

Around the corner to the right is my painting display space. I have professional grade wall hooks spaced 24" apart horizontally, with a second row 20" below the top row. This layout fits most sizes of finished paintings, without having to move hooks, although some of the larger pieces may cover two hooks.

Karen Richardson's Studio

My display space shown above consists of three walls, one 10 feet wide, one 12 feet wide, and one 8 feet wide. There is a short hallway to the right with display walls 2 feet and 6 feet wide. This gives me a total of 38 linear feet of gallery space. This is also the room I use for teaching my watercolour workshops. I teach up to five students at a time, and we each work on a 2' x 4' portable table. The photo below shows a typical class (and a different display of paintings).

Watercolour workshop in Karen Richardson studio 

No art studio or teaching space would be complete without a bathroom. In the photo below, you can see the bathroom we added on this level when we renovated. I also display a couple of finished paintings in there.

Karen Richardson's Studio

This completes the tour of the public area of my studio practice. The photos below show more studio storage and equipment that is in our furnace room and not accessible to the public (except on this virtual visit).

Karen Richardson studio

Shown above is my wonderful automotive storage rack. Each shelf is capable of supporting up to 500 lbs. This rack stores my painting transport boxes, shipping materials, business records, bulk storage of Watercolour Toolbox books, art show lighting equipment, framing materials, as well as some household items. Those 13 binders on the right are scrapbooks that document my entire art career to date (paintings, awards, shows, etc.). All this on a bit of floor measuring 2' x 6'.

Below, also in the furnace room, is my mat- and cardboard-cutting table. The slots underneath store mat board, and painting transport boxes, bags, and portfolios. The drawers hold my framing hardware, tools, and equipment.

Karen Richardson studio

I hope you have enjoyed your personal virtual art studio tour. I hope to see you in person in my studio at some point in the future.Visitors are welcome by appointment, or during an Open Studio event.

If you have any ideas, questions, or comments to share, please do so using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post.

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to learn more about the life of a professional artist, travel tales, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions. 

The Making of 'Snow and Stone'

22 January, 2018 4 comments Leave a comment

Snow and Stone, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Last year I instructed a six-week watercolour class at Meta4 Gallery in Port Perry, for intermediate level students (meaning they have extensive watercolour experience). I chose this winter scene of a big rock and a fir tree because it would provide an opportunity to work with several different painting techniques, and I love to paint rocks in any setting. My finished 16 x 12" demonstration painting is shown above.

Snow and Stone watercolour workshop taught by Karen Richardson 

This is the graduation photo from our class. You can see all the students worked hard and did a great job on their paintings. Each piece looked different than the rest, which is always the case in my classes. I encourage students to make their own way when developing their compositions, such as in choice of paint mixtures, or in the amount of detail they want to achieve.

Reference photo for Snow and Stone, taken by Karen Richardson

The reference photo above was one I took many years ago on a snowmobile trip in northern Ontario. I liked the composition, but would have to use some imagination to make the flat lighting more interesting and to simplify the background.

Snow and Stone, work in progress by Karen Richardson

Step #1 (above) Drawing / Snow Shadows

I began by sketching the scene on layout paper, making all corrections before tracing my drawing onto Arches 300 lb. cold pressed bright white watercolour paper. Then I decided the best angle for 'invented' sunshine would be from the upper right.

As with all my paintings, I used a limited palette of paint colours for this scene. With just yellow (New Gamboge), blue (French Ultramarine), and dark brown (Burnt Umber) I mixed all the colours needed for this scene. I wet all the snow area with clear water, and brushed on a watery blue mixture everywhere the imagined sunlight would not fall, to give the effect of snow shadows. The sunlit snow was just the clean white of the paper.

Snow and Stone, work in progress by Karen Richardson

Step #2 (Above) Masking / Base Layer on Forest and Fir Tree

Once the snow shadows were dry, I applied masking fluid to the trunks of the birch trees, to make sure they stayed white while I painted the scene around them. This masking layer will be removed near the end of the painting process, just prior to painting the birch trunks.

While the masking dried, I mixed up a bright green and a medium green, using different combinations of blue and yellow. I wet the entire background above the snow line and dropped in bright green where the imagined sunlight would fall. Then I added sections of medium green where shadows or coniferous trees would be. I made sure to leave space for the sky, into which I placed a few strokes of blue to give a soft cloud effect.

While the background dried, I mixed up a dark brownish green for the foreground tree shadows, using all three colours. For my main subjects, I often paint the shadows first, let them dry, and then paint the actual colours of the subject over top. This sequencing allows me to place my shadows accurately, while I can clearly see my pencil lines. If I paint the subject colours first, they can obliterate my pencil lines, and my shadow shapes then require some guess work.

Snow and Stone, detail of work in progress by Karen Richardson

Step #2 Detail (Above) Negative Painting on Fir Tree

I painted the fir tree shadows onto dry paper, using a negative-painting-with-two-brushes technique. One round brush held the paint and the other round brush held clear water. Working on dry paper, I applied the paint above the highlight shapes of each needle cluster, and then placed clear water immediately above, but just touching, the painted section. The areas of wet paint and water flowed together slightly, creating a soft transition. It takes a lot of practice to judge the amount of fluid needed to create this effect, which is why this subject was a great learning experience.

Snow and Stone, work in progress by Karen Richardson

Step #3 Second Layer on Forest and Fir Tree

Once the fir tree shadows had dried, I erased the masking layer from the birch trunks. Then I painted the entire fir tree with a couple of green mixtures, making sure to keep the lighter ones on the upper right, the sunlit side of the tree. Since watercolour is a transparent medium, the shadow layer showed through the second layer.

When the fir tree was dry, I painted the birch trunks with whispers of pale blue and pale brown paint on the left halves of the trunks, and clear water on the right halves, to give a cylindrical effect. I painted the branches and tree trunks in the forest with a dark brown mixture, making sure to lighten the colour on the right and upper sides by adding some water.

Snow and Stone, watercolour by Karen Richardson

Step #4 Completing the Forest / Painting the Rock

I added some negative painting effects to the forest shrubbery and tree masses, using a dark green mixture. This gave the effect of sunlight falling on the forest and made it more three dimensional than in the reference photo. Once dry, and to finish the forest, I added more twigs and small branches, and dark scars on the birch trunks, using my rigger brush and calligraphy pen.

Getting ready to paint the first layer on the rock, I masked out the dried leaf shapes and blobs of snow underneath the fir tree. When that had dried, I used a rigger brush with dark gray-brown paint to create the dark cracks in the rock and the shadows between the dried leaves. Once dry, I used my two-brush technique with the same paint to create the softer shadows on the underside of the rock. Then I let the paint dry fully.

For the colour layer on the rock, I made pale mixtures of gray-blue and gray-brown. I wet the entire rock with clear water, brushed in the two colours using the reference photo as a placement guide, then sprinkled on table salt and left the painting to dry over night. Then the salt was rubbed off, leaving a pale patch in the colour where each salt crystal had been.

I removed the masking fluid and painted the leaves and snow beneath the tree. I added some tiny twigs in the snow here and there to complete Snow and Stone, watercolour 16 x 12". Click here for more photos and details of the finished painting. I thought it turned out incredibly well. What do you think? Please share your comments by using the 'Leave a Comment' button at the top of this post. Thank you.

Subscribe to Karen's Newsletter if you wish to see more painting stories, travel tales, studio news updates, or notices of upcoming painting classes and exhibitions.

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