Morning light on the first full day of summer!
This painting was done as a demo for an en plein air painting class at Stonover Farm & Inn, Lenox, Massachusetts. This view looks down Under Mountain Road from near Stonover Farms duck pond.
The demo focused on several important considerations for catching summer light, painting summer greens and capturing the effect of summer foliage in back light.
The key to catching the sense of light on summery greens is to think of “yellow-green” instead of green. Sunlit greens are warmer – meaning “yellower” – and hence appear to be more yellow than green. In this painting, the bright, sun-struck patch of grass in the middle left is almost pure cool lemon yellow. By contrast, the darker areas of green in shade and shadow areas are cooler – meaning “blue-er”. Combining two visual contrasts – light against dark and cool against warm – enhances our sense of bright sunlight on the landscape.
Backlighting the trees to the right in this painting was a matter of working in methodical steps and employing dry-brush technique. The initial layer of color was the light, yellow-greens. Using drybrush on cold press paper created a sense of foliage with a good deal of “holes” where we are seeing through the foliage to the sky beyond. Two other layers of dry-brush color were applied, each one after the previous layer had dried. The second was a mid-value green, the third was a dark blue green. These successive layers, added carefully so as not to obscure to much of the visible sky or the early yellow green layer, help give a sense of form and space as well as light.
The greens of high summer can be monotonous – the landscape is dominated by un-varying deep greens. The task for the artist is to find ways of showing variety in these greens. One of the ways is to depict the contrast of bright sunlight against deep shade and shadow. Another way is to simply use a variety of greens in the painting, even if they don’t exist in the scene. Like most landscape painters, I choose to mix my greens, rather than use greens from the tube. My palette has five blues and five yellows. I use these in various combinations to make a very wide range of bright, dull, light, and dark greens.
The painting was finished by adding the low intensity, violet blue shadows across the road and the deep dark blue greens in the “tunnel” at the middle left.