Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Painting the Old Hiker’s Tunnel – Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The watercolor above is of a location that is hidden from view under one of the busiest roads in the park during tourist season – Clingman’s Dome Road.  This road is closed to vehicle traffic from December 1 - March 31 or whenever weather conditions require.   However, hikers or cross country skiers can use the road when road conditions on Highway 441 over the mountains allow.  The location of the tunnel is .2 of a mile from the gated entrance to the road.  It looks like you're just driving over another bridge or stone-walled culvert, but when you walk down a small slope from the road; you find one of the most unique structures in the park.  Some folks say this was once on the Appalachian Trail while others say it was Thomas Divide Trail that traversed through the tunnel.   

Just a little history of the tunnel:
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Regional Office provides the following information:
“There are a few things that are certain: 
1) The A. T. has always passed within sight of the north end of the tunnel;
2) The A. T. has not passed through the tunnel since 1939. Beyond that, there is some evidence in favor of the notion that the A. T. passed through the tunnel between 1934 and 1939 and some evidence against the notion."

So it appears that the tunnel may or may not have been part of the AT, but the upper part of the Thomas Divide Trail which was obliterated by the building of Newfound Gap Road as it now exists.  Just another mystery to enjoy about the Smoky Mountains! 

I enjoy painting locations in the mountains.  While hiking, I’ll take a photo with my phone and paint when I get back to the studio; I especially like painting on a rainy day when hiking is not as enjoyable.   Now, for the reason for my blog…..painting instructions!

How to Paint the Tunnel:
Materials Needed:
  • 140# Watercolor paper – I use Arches
  • #12 round brush
  • Flat brush
  • Liner brush
Watercolor Paint:
  • Payne’s Gray
  • Sap Green
  • Ultramarine
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Van Dyke Brown
Sketch the scene on your paper which has been taped to a board.   We will be executing this painting wet on wet.  I painted this watercolor in this order:

Exterior Rock Walls:
Prepare a light wash of Payne’s Gray and a wash of Yellow Ochre.  Wet the entire exterior wall area of the painting.  Using your round brush drop in the Payne’s Gray and Yellow ochre in various locations on the stone allowing the colors to blend and leaving some areas white.  Deepen the color at the bottom section of the exterior walls. Allow to dry.  

To emphasize certain stones, it will be necessary to paint them individually.  Wet only the stone you would like to paint with clean water.  Drop in the paint using the gray, the yellow or both.  However, this needs to be varied on each stone you paint.  Not every individual stone is painted, only several to give some detail to the stone wall.  Allow to dry and using a liner brush and a mix of Payne’s Gray and VanDyke Brown, paint some of the edges of the stones making certain that you do not outline each stone.  Your pencil marks will show through in some areas which will be sufficient in defining the stones.  Allow to dry.

Interior Stone Walls, Floor and Foreground:
Prepare a wash of Yellow Ochre, Payne’s Gray and Ultramarine.  Wet the interior stone walls and drop in the colors deepening the shade and intensity toward the end of the tunnel.  Allow to dry.  Paint in the floor using the same colors, but using lighter shades to indicate the light coming through the back end of the tunnel.  As you move toward the front of the tunnel with the floor color, add deeper shades of gray and VanDyke Brown mix.  Vary the shades of these colors as well to indicate light.  Allow to dry.  The side foreground areas are painted wet on wet with Ultramarine dropped in the edges along with a touch of brown. 

Background  view on the back side of the tunnel:
Paint the landscape background using washes of Sap Green, Yellow Ochre and a mix of Ultramarine and Sap Green to create a deeper shade for the trees.   Paint over the support frame of the tunnel.  You will paint over the top of the landscape background with a deep shade of Payne’s Gray which will cover the landscape colors and provide you with an unbroken tree line.   Allow to dry. 

Finishing touches:
Spatter a mix of VanDyke Brown and Payne’s Gray to the foreground sections on both the left and right.  Using a utility knife, scratch in some highlights in various locations on your painting.

 Great job – sign your name!

Happy Painting!


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