“Our task, regarding creativity, is to help children climb their own mountains, as high as possible. No one can do more.” – Loris Malaguzzi
Mountain illustrations can be challenging and overwhelming subjects for many artists. A photo contains so much detail it’s often hard to know where to start.
It’s a good idea to take time to explore the landscape after you choose the mountain you’d like to paint.
Ask the questions:
- “What sold me on this image?
- Was it the contrast of the elements, the light source, the shape?
- Where does my eye naturally flow?”
Now create a preliminary pencil comp to determine the best layout. A quick drawing can help with proportion and how much of the painting you want to allocate to the foreground, middle ground, and background as you determine the main point of interest.
Mountain Painting Process
After you have a plan it’s time to set up your Double Primary Palette and gather your supplies. Use the image guide below as a reference to help you in mixing the hues.
Then follow the following steps.
First, prepare your paint mixes to match the scrap for all areas of your mountain:
- Dark Snow,
- Light Snow,
- Dark Rocks,
- Light Mountain Rocks.
Note: The overlap in your paints will define the medium shaded area.
1. With a #2 pencil, draw your mountain outline. Pencil in the fall lines and any additional detail that helps to define the light and dark areas. Later you can erase the graphite using a kneaded eraser that will not harm your painting surface.
2. Apply frisket or mask off your mountain area and apply a wash of color in the blue, mixed blue, and cloudy or cloudy sky and let the paint fully dry.
3. Now wash in the light snow on the major shaded areas. While wet, add additional wash in some of the darker areas. Then let this layer dry.
4. Now apply a single color wash over your entire mountain, building up the color to a darker tone at the bottom and lighter at the top. While still wet you can take a tissue and lift off paint to reveal the nearly pure white areas where you determine the light is brightest. Let this layer dry.
5. Now go back in and add detail to reflect the darkest crevices, caverns, small rocks, shadows, etc. so the highlights also appear brighter.
6. Add detail at the base of the mountain to reflect the shadows at the base of the mountain and where the middle ground will meet the mountain.
The following slide show provides a simple guide of the detailed steps.
Developing A Style
After painting several life-like reproductions you’ll soon identify and develop a personal style. Mountain illustrations can be whimsical and fairytale-like or highly graphic with high contrast.
They can feature unique brush strokes, lines, and tones. The reference scrap can inspire you to choose how much detail you’d like to include. They can be painted digitally or painted by hand using gauche, acrylic, oil, or watercolor paint and brushes or even colored pencils and markers.
Remember mountains shaped like cylinders, or a combination of cylinders that have areas that protrude and recede—cliffs, crevices, ledges, rocks, etc. The lightest tones are where edges protrude and the light shines the brightest. The tones get darker as they recede into the shadows.
You can use a combination of washes and dry brushing. The washes cover the largest areas and some will overlap creating medium tones. The dry brushing techniques help define the darker areas of the greatest detail.
In our next Tutorial we will cover painting the middle ground and how it creates harmony. Hope to see you there!
Table of Contents for the Perfect Palette Series
- The Many Hues of Color
- Best Palette Colors to Build Depth
- The Double Primary Palette
- Painting Blue and Cloudy Skies
- Mixing Colors for Painting the Background
- Painting Mountains
- How the Middle Ground Creates Harmony
- Stepping Into the Foreground
- Laying Down Foreground Foundations: Rocks, Tree Mounds, etc.