This watercolor painting was done from a photo taken on a recent hike in the Great Smoky Mountains. Fall is one of my favorite seasons of the year to hike AND capture in paint!
The best way to start the painting is to analyze the scene and determine the colors in the landscape. The Great Smoky Mountains are known by the smoky haze that rises over the mountain peaks. This painting is of a vista along the trail in early morning before the sun peeked through the smoke. The grasses are starting to die back, and there are gold and brown touches among the green grasses. The trees, except for these evergreens, are slowing turning, but are still mostly green. The background trees are cast in shadow and smoke.
140# Watercolor paper – I use Arches
#12 round brush
Van Dyke Brown
Sketch the scene on your paper which has been taped to a board. We will be executing this painting, as with most watercolors, by starting with the background and working forward – wet on wet.
Wet the top portion of your paper down to the horizon. Using a pale wash of Payne’s Gray, paint in your sky using a flat brush and allowing the gray to form clouds, but leaving lots of white. While this is still wet create areas of tree shapes with lighter in the background building into darker in the foreground. Add more Payne’s Gray and a little bit of Ultramarine. I used a large round brush for the tree shapes. Leave lighter areas of gray and white space between the darker tree shapes to create the “smoke.” Use a tissue or paper towel to blot out some of the excess paint to create cloud shapes. This is painted down to the horizon with the green trees painted on top of this background. Spray with water as needed to mist the trees. Allow this to dry.
Layer in some pale shades of green for background trees, building in deeper color as you move forward to the trees in the midrange of the painting. Deepen your green with ultramarine and add touches of this to indicate shadows in the trees. Allow some of the lighter areas as well as background to show through. Allow to dry.
Lay down your base for the grass by using a wet on wet technique of a light green and yellow ochre. Drop in some of the deeper color of green and ultramarine under the trees for shadows. While still wet pull up the taller grasses using shades of yellow ochre, VanDyke Brown and sap green. At the base of the grasses drop in some deeper shades and pull up into the grasses. Allow to dry.
Wet the trail area and using a round brush float in shades of gray and brown, letting some of the white paper show through in areas for highlights. Allow to dry. Using the same colors as the trail, spatter the area with paint to indicate rock, gravel, etc. Don’t forget to cover areas of your painting that you do not want spattered.
For final touches, add a few pieces of tall grass. Allow to dry. Using a razor blade, scrape in some highlights in the grasses.
Congratulations! Don’t forget to sign your name!