I often travel to the Rocky Mountains and have been inspired by the endless vistas these majestic mountains have to offer. Lake Louise is easily accessible being only about an hours drive outside of Calgary, Alberta.
The summer views of Lake Louise seem to offer the most colorful time of the year - contrasting the glistening white snow fields with the varying shades of browns and greens in the valley below. This canvas is 24" x 36" and I have started with a rough sketch of the mountains and snow fields and have indicated some reflections in the lake below. I have also laid in some of the base for the areas of blue sky that will appear through the clouds.
I work from the top to the bottom and from left to right on all my canvases. The stretched canvas is laid on the edge of a large table in my studio and I work sitting down with the canvas tilted on the edge of the table and the bottom edge usually resting on my knee. In this position I can steady my hand by actually resting it on the canvas. My hand does not (usually) get into the paint because I am working top to bottom and left to right. The under lying drawing does tend to get smeared a bit but using a fairly hard graphite pencil tends to keep the canvas relatively clean.
The image to the right shows how I have started to lay in the clouds after extending the area of blue sky.
The blending techniques I use are done only with the knife. It involves a scraping motion with the edge of the knife and you can see from the transition of the picture to the right and the next image below that the clouds have softened and are starting to take on a more puffy look. There is not a lot of paint on the canvas in fact I have taken some paint off the canvas that was applied in the initial laying in of the clouds. The 'scraping off' of the paint leaves more of a stained effect and the result is a softened look.
A close comparison of the clouds to the right and those in the previous image reveal how to the edges have been blended out giving the clouds a more transparent edge. The blue area of open sky has had the blue intensified to heighten the contrast of the billowing clouds against the open sky
It is often hard to feel where your painting is going when you have only worked on a relatively small area. One of the more difficult things for many artists, is to learn how to see the overall canvas and visualize the direction you want your painting to take. I try to look at the canvas in an unfocused way from time to time while I am working (seeing the image but not really focusing on the surface of the canvas nor on any one spot. This approach helps me get a feel for how things are coming together. If something is not quite right it tends to jump out and the eye will focus automatically on that spot.
The palette knife is a natural for laying in the rocky surfaces of the mountains. Working with both the edge and the flat part of the knife, I can lay down base colors and then lightly drag draker color over top to create textures. Controlling these effects is what takes time and a lot of pratice to learn. It is all about using the palette knife enough to get a feel for what it can do.
Painting is all about contrasts - keeping the background colors a little more muted helps to enhance the mountains in the foreground and sets off the greens in the tree lines.
I have started to put in some of the same color from the foreground mountains where the water is indicated - following the pattern created by the mountains above to bring out a reflective look. Once the water has been knifed in with a thin layer of paint I start scraping the canvas with my knife to blend the lake area. The scraping technique creates a more reflective look.