Subscriber Question: Black & White Landscape

David asked for some help with painting the black and white landscape below.

Painting a subject in monochrome is generally much easier than painting in color, because all we need to concern ourselves with are the tonal values. But there is one problem that this photo presents us with, and that’s how to preserve the highlights on the foreground trees.

I started with a very rough line drawing to give me a guide where to place the foreground trees , the horizon line and the slope of the snow in the immediate foreground.

To preserve the highlights on the trees I’m going to use some masking fluid.

But rather than apply it with a brush, I’m going to use the edge of an old expired credit card, which is perfect for getting a textured appearance while at the same time making nice straight lines. Once I’d applied the masking fluid I needed to wait a few minutes for it to dry completely. I find it best not to use a hairdryer, as that tends to weld the masking fluid to the paper’s surface making it very difficult to remove!

Once the masking fluid is dry, I wet the paper with clean water, stopping at the horizon line.

I’m going to be using just Paynes Grey for this painting. I’m starting with the line of trees in the background. See how the paint forms a hard edged line at the bottom where the water stops and the dry paper starts, and there is a diffuse edge at the top, as the paint bleeds into the wet paper.

The next step was to add the cast shadows on the snowy ground. Once done, wait for everything to dry completely.

I re-wetted the sky and added some soft clouds with a very dilute wash of Paynes Grey and allowed everything to dry again. I began to add the foreground trees by dragging a brush gently down the paper, I used my calligraphy brush for the thicker trees although any round brush would work just as well, for the thinner trees I used a rigger.

In the photo below, I’ve added some fir trees by dry-brushing with the Rigger and now I’m adding the thinnest branches.

The only thing left to do now is wait for the painting to dry completely and gently rub away the masking fluid with my finger.

Well David, I hope that helped. Although I’m not generally a huge fan of masking fluid. In this case, it’s a much easier alternative than trying to paint around all those trees.

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