Monthly Archives: May 2014


The colors of shadows in a landscape pretty much depend on the time of day and the amount of sunlight.  If it is a cloudy day, your shadows tend to be cool and gray.  Always put a little warmth into them for interest, however.  If the light is warm, however, the shadows will be cool.  Look for blues and purples (complements of the light).   Squint your eyes if you are painting outdoors so that you can see the values better.  Values should be close together in the shadow. If painting from a photo, remember that the shadows look darker and with little change of hues, so exaggerate in your painting.  Keep the shadows a little lighter, and add different hues in the same values.

Shadows should be a darker color of the local color, the complement of the local color, and with either blue or purple tones.  If the local color is yellow, however, you might need to use some umber to counteract the green tones.  In the morning, the light is usually yellow, so the shadows are purple. In the afternoon, the light is warmer (oranges), so the shadows are blue. Shadows on the ground can be blue because of the illumination from the sky, but warm colors show up on upright planes since the light comes from surrounding objects, not the sky.





(as taken from the teachings of Maggie Price, Richard McKinley,Edgar A. Whitney, and Milton Meyer)

Still waters and rushing waters are different, so treat them differently.

Calm water is horizontal. Use darker horizontals on the far shore. Distant water is lighter in value than the water closer to the foreground, since it reflects the sky at the horizon, which is lighter in value than the sky directly overhead. Water close to the shore has a greenish tinge. Don’t put in ripples in distant water. The direction of your strokes will make the movement in water.

Reflections point toward you, even if you change your position or the water is agitated. There’s a difference between a reflection and a shadow. An angled reflected object, such as a leaning tree or a boat prow, creates a reverse angle reflection. Boats, rocks, piers and other objects in the water will cast their own shadows and reflections, though not necessarily in the same directions. A static shadow, as from a moored boat will interrupt the reflection and, in shallow water, may provide a glimpse beneath the surface.

A gently moving stream produces mirror-like reflections. If ripples break the surface, the reflections become distorted, no matter how smooth the surface may appear. Because the broken surface of the water takes on varying reflecting planes, you’ll see a combination of reflected colors from the far shore, from the sky, or from other reflected items.

To paint the reflections, put on a base coat first, then paint reflections downward in still water, lightly scumbling over the base coat. Sometimes a sharpened pastel pencil is helpful. Make a few horizontal strokes in light color in a few places to indicate the water. Reflections are either lighter or darker than the actual object. Dark objects reflect lighter, and light objects reflect darker. The color of the water will affect the color of the reflection. Clouds can be reflected in the water as well.

Rushing water reflections are broken. Foaming water is sometimes white in color, so you could use a white hard pastel for these affects, but otherwise, avoid the use of white. Edges of rushing water or surf are soft, not sharp. Water changes color when it aerates. Use greys. In splashes, there is dark beneath. They pick up the colors around it – usually a shadow side and a highlight side. Sometimes you’ll see some yellow ochre – some warms, but greys predominate.

In addition to sky or cloud reflections, you must deal with dark areas created by shadows produced by portions of the waves themselves and light or white areas resulting from capping or frothing action.

Portraying “wetness” is different from portraying “water.:” With wetness you’re dealing with reflecting films of water. A sandy beach with a receding tide shows wetness, represented by a darker tone from the abutting dry sand. Closer to the water’s edge the film is thicker and reflections are modified by the color of the underlying sand.


.MaryAnn Stafford Surf Watchers Pastel



Rocks can sometimes be a pain to put into a landscape, especially one with water.  But they are very effective in moving the eye around the picture, so don’t avoid them completely!

Atop the Mountain

Rocks should be all different sizes with sharp edges. Exaggerate them by making each and every rock different with jagged angles and irregular planes. If there are a lot of rocks that look similar, join two or three together to make new, larger shapes. Paint in the local color, then add variety by using a warmer light bouncing on the shadowed side. Avoid green rocks. Don’t outline cracks, make shapes instead. Keep the texture rough. Scumble lightly if you’re using pastel. Use the small bits and pieces of pastel in a box to use for painting rocks.

When several rocks are piled together, use different hues to keep them separated. Some rocks are warm, some are cool, so remember to change hues. Edges of rocks in water are darker. Rocks splashed with water tend to have blue in them. As they move off into the distance, make them smaller, cooler, and greyer. Try purples oranges, blues in the same values to vary colors in rocks. Above all, try not to let the rocks look like Idaho potatoes!

As always, to learn how to paint anything, observe carefully and practice painting it!





Putting clouds in your paintings is a way to add visual texture and movement to an otherwise stagnant part of your composition – the flat sky.  Here are some tips:

1.  Clouds have form; they are not a cut-out shape floating in are.  They have value and bulk – pretend you’re touching them.

2.  Think about simple shapes: sphere, cube, oval. Some clouds are soft edged and some are hard edged.

3.  Think about the position of the sun, your point of view, and the direction of the wind. Include some wispy clouds to suggest the wind.

4.  Look for color temperature variations within the grey areas.  Lighter areas will appear warmer, shadow areas cooler.

5.  Cloud shadows will look violet grey, reflecting the warmer temperature of the earth. Don’t paint them darker in value than the open blue sky–it’s an optical illusion if they appear so.  Only dense storm clouds will be darker.

6. Cumulous clouds are the most difficult. Keep them soft. Keep the highlight inside the edge. Distant clouds are flatter at the bottom. Exaggerate cools and warms underneath the clouds.

7. If painting in watercolor or pastel on paper, leave the white of the paper for the highlights of the clouds.