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Tonal Study

Earlier this year, one of my birthday presents was Tate Watercolour Manual: Lessons from the Great Masters by Tony Smibert and Joyce Townsend (Tate Enterprises, 2014). It is another watercolour manual but has a particular focus on techniques and approaches from the kind of masters exhibited at the Tate Gallery like Constable and Turner. It isn’t only art history but also has didactic purpose. For today’s 30x30DirectWatercolor2018 piece (now into the final five of the run!), I used the tonal study exercise on p.67, based on the work of Claude Lorrain:

Watercolour painting

Tonal Study after Claude Lorrain

Although it looks monochrome at first glance, it actually has a fair amount of colour – Schmincke Neutral Tint mixed with some green I had left over from yesterday (mainly Royal and Langnickel Dark Green) and a spot of R&L Ultramarine to get some subtle granulation going.

There’s a light background wash to indicate distant hills (perhaps a little too towering for most real landscapes?) and, once that was fairly dry, a mid-tone wash for the mid-ground. Finally, in the exercise, blobs of dark colour to suggest a nearer treeline. My tweak on this was to splay the brush and touch in some more dark shapes. A small bit of detail goes such a long way – it must get the brain’s pattern recognition centres firing and filling in a sense of depth that is purely illusory.

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