Loved & Learned; Kolbie Blume’s Wilderness Watercolor Landscapes, Chapter 2: Mountains

I’m working my way through the tutorials in Wilderness Watercolor Landscapes by Kolbie Blume. It’s funny, Skies took me months, but I covered Mountains in a little over a week! I did all of these on 7×10 sample pages of different Hahnemuhle papers; you’ll see these paintings again when I review all the paper in the pack! 

Monochrome Misty Mountain

February 2022

I enjoyed the limitation of this prompt, which involved using only one color. I chose Daniel Smith Phthalo Turquoise because it has such a high range of values from dark to light, and creates a moody yet verdant Pacific Northwest-ish atmosphere. I deviated slightly from the tutorial by skipping a final hill layer and replacing it with foreground trees.

Learned:

  • Overall a bit dark; I might have preserved more lights. 
  • Trees could still use work; my instinct of moving down in a series of zigzags over the trunk doesn’t look the most realistic (too neat!), and some of the trunks are too thick. 
  • Middle too mountains could be differentiated better if they were more different values or if the near one had a little bit of tree texture. 

Loved: 

  • Overall atmosphere. 
  • Trees are improving! I especially like the tallest one, which has a bit of a look of Norway spruce with “weeping” needles.
  • Looming mountain in back.

Layered Mountain Sunset

February 2022. 

I cut the paper and did this one twice, using the same base colors, but in different mixes. The top one has warm-to-cool mountain layers (as in the tutorial), and the bottom has cool-to-warm mountain layers. I wondered if this might work better with the theory of how to create depth, as cool colors are said to recede. I’m glad I experimented, because I think they’re both interesting in their own way! 

Colors: 

  • Sky: Holbein Prussian Blue, DS Monte Amiata Natural Sienna. 
  • Mountain layers: Holbein Prussian Blue, WN Winsor Lemon, SH Purple Magenta. 

Learned:

  • Theory isn’t always right! I like the warm version better.  It looks as though sunlight is hitting the mountain layers in the back. There are many situations where “theory” doesn’t apply or works differently – nothing is every simple! 
  • Layers tend to look better if you only do the once; I got blooms on the ones where I went over it a couple of times. They look kind of interesting, but not what I intended. 
  • Rest before doing finishing touches. The birds are pretty clearly an afterthought.

Loved: 

  • I like that I did an experiment! It’s fun to explore and try things for myself, rather than relying solely on tutorials and/or theory. 
  • I like the color combinations and mixes (in both). 
  • Successfully turned an accidental bloom into a lifted sunspot in the top one.

Twilight Sand Dune

Feburary 2022.

This is probably the one where I most devoutly followed the tutorial. 

Colors: 

  • Sky: DS Indanthrone Blue, SH Purple Magenta. 
  • Dune (light side): DS Monte Amiata Natural Sienna, DS Transparent Brown Oxide.
  • Dune (dark side): DS Indanthrone Blue, DS Transparent Brown Oxide.

Learned: 

  • Use a ruler or at least look when sketching the various sides of the dunes. I put them at different angles which I think looks odd. 
  • Entirely wet a layer when you’re glazing it, even if you only plan to glaze part of it, to avoid harsh lines and poor color blends. I cut corners by not fully glazing the dark side; I couldn’t tell the difference in real life, but I can tell in the photograph.
  • Test-splatter stars first; my mix was a bit too wet and that’s why I got such large white circles. 

Loved: 

  • Vibrant, yet textured sandy colors from the combination of granulating glazes (Transparent Brown Oxide) and rough paper.
  • Dramatic contrast between light and dark sides. 
  • Cool blends in the sky; I did a combination of dropping unmixed color wet-on-wet, mixing color and then dropping it, and lifting to create clouds/light spots.

Snow-Capped Peak

February 2022.

I wasn’t looking forward to this one because I found it sort of boring and almost skipped it, but it ended up being one of my favorites! I slightly intensified the colors (there’s no red in the tutorial), but tried to keep a really restrained hand and mostly followed the tutorial. I really like how it came out. 

Colors: DS Indanthrone Blue, DS Quinacridone Coral, DS Lemon Yellow

Learned:

  • While I overall like the way the mountain shadows came out, I think I could have done even better using a reference instead of entirely making them up from my own head.
  • Ditto the mist, which I kept second-guessing. 

Loved: 

  • Glowing sky colors from having the restraint to keep the sky light, and go darker/grayer on the mountain for contrast.
  • Quin Coral in the sky; it’s just that perfect red-but-not-too-red/orange-but-not-too-orange.
  • Contrast between wet-on-dry detail on the mountain and soft blends in the mist and sky. 

Milky Way Delicate Arch

I knew this would be one of my favorites, and it was! I love the Delicate Arch (I’ve painted it before). I reversed the order of the tutorial, which has you sketch the arch, paint it in, and then paint the sky around it. Instead, I masked the shape of the arch so there would be no pencil on my paper and I could do the sky first. Because the sky was so big and bold, I enjoyed being able to splash out without worrying about painting in the lines. 

Colors: 

  • Sky: DS Phthalo Blue Red Shade, SH Purple Magenta
  • Arch: DS Quin Gold, DS Transparent Red Oxide, DS Transparent Brown Oxide

Learned:

  • Part of the intention behind doing the sky first was to create continuity in the center of the arch and the rest of the sky, which was a good idea, but ultimately I think I lost it and it doesn’t really look that different than if I’d painted it separately. 
  • Know your paper’s drying time. (I keep switching papers, which is part of the problem here!) There are some awkward blends in the sky due to attempting to put on layer 2 before layer 1 was fully dry. (My first attempt at stars was also totally swallowed up for that reason.) 
  • Gotta keep an eye on that washi tape when doing heavy wet washes. 

Loved:

  • Almost everything. I really like this one!!
  • I used a reference for the arch and I like all the detail, including sediment stripes and high-contrast shadows. 
  • Nice depth in the stars with lots of different sizes. 
  • I like blooms for the milky way. 
  • I really enjoy both Phthalo Blue Red Shade and SH Purple Magenta in the sky. They make really dark, rich blues and purples that offset stars nicely, bloom well, and don’t granulate. Perfect for the night sky!
  • I also really like the Transparent Oxides for sandstone; there the granulation is a total plus! And I like the contrast between flat sky/textured stone. 
  • Color contrasts between blue/purple sky and orange/yellow stone. Very complementary and cool. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this chapter and felt that I made some really nice art using the tutorials both literally and as a jumping-off point. Kolbie gave some great advice (like the explanation of how to keep the sky glowy in “Snow-Capped Peak”), and the prompts were inspirational. I also feel like that I improved over the five assignments! I had a lot of fun.

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