Can you give some tips on painting the Maine sky in various conditions and in the four seasons, due to the changing effects of the atmosphere? Fog, you said, tends towards the lavender. Can you offer any other general tips?
It’s less about fog having a color in real life than about the effect of large swaths of grey on the canvas. Grey kills the motion and excitement that makes fog so interesting in the first place. Substituting a color of the same value for the grey of fog is not my idea; Frederic Church, JMW Turner, Fitz Hugh Lane, Claude Monet, and innumerable other painters of atmospherics have done the same thing.
The Maine sky tends to be very clear except when it’s not. A clear sky is always darkest at the top (zenith) and lighter nearest the horizon and the sun. Near the horizon, the light gets scattered. The horizon is lighter in color and is often tinted pink, lavender or yellow (which creates an illusion that you’re seeing turquoise). Maine has less humidity than other places in the East, so you’re less likely to encounter China blue skies.
Seasonal changes are less important than the differences created by humidity and fog. We are pretty far north so the sun doesn’t spend much time over the yardarm in the winter. That means much of the day has golden, slanting light.
I frequently use ultramarine blue at the zenith and away from the light source, and Prussian blue (which is less violet) near the horizon. But I don’t necessarily believe the sky is always blue at all. If the value is right, you can be creative in terms of the hue.
Can you give us some general guidelines on how to paint reflections on water properly?
The reflection is a mirror image, so its position on the horizontal axis needs to align exactly with the object itself. However, that is not true of the reflection’s length or its position on the vertical axis. You see the object and its reflection from two different viewing angles. You see more of the underside and less of the top. Mountains will be truncated, the hulls of boats elongated.
In general, the reflection will have compressed value and chroma. The darks aren’t as dark and the lights aren’t as light; nor are the colors as intense. The farther you look across water, the cooler the color, because more light is being reflected from the sky. When you’re looking straight down, there’s almost no reflection.
In the ocean there are often completely unexpected bands of color. And the surface play is so complicated that almost any configuration is possible for ripples and waves; this is a place where there’s no substitute for looking.
In the matrix you showed us for greens, you made nine but said that you could make 18. Was that by adding white to each mixture?
The matrix is described here for those of you who haven’t taken my workshops or classes.
You can and should modulate those greens with any tints on your palette, but I generally mix some pale lavender and plop it next to my greens. Since distance makes objects cooler and lighter, this gives you a fast method of hitting those far-away greens.
Are tints made of 50 % white and 50% percent color?
To my knowledge there is no hard and fast rule about quantities in a tint, a shade or a tone. A tint is just a color mixed with white, a shade is a color mixed with black, and a tone is a color mixed with grey.
I have students make tints of the colors on their palettes because it’s a fast way to learn about color space, and it minimizes the beginner’s problem of “making mud” when painting alla prima. And while I learned to paint at a time when black was anathematized, shades are still useful, particularly for flesh tones.
The best information I’ve ever seen about color space is Robert Gamblin’s Navigating Color Space DVD. It is available on YouTube: