Creating a Backlit Watercolor Landscape

One of watercolor artist Karlyn Holman‘s favorite scenes to paint is a backlit woodland landscape. The technique she uses to render this phenomenon is easy, effective and fail-safe. Follow along in this watercolor landscape tutorial as she shares how she creates a focus of light on autumn trees from which the “fingers of God” emanate.

Holman also shares a detailed step-by-step demonstration on how to create a focus of light on winter trees in the February 2014 issue of Watercolor Artist.

  

 

Step 1: Mask out three circular-shaped areas slightly off center, at the source of the light. Wet both sides of Arches 140-lb. cold-pressed paper. Starting in the center near the sun source, add a circle of primary yellow followed by rings of quinacridone gold and quinacridone coral. Add cobalt blue around the rest of the paper.

Creating a Backlit Watercolor Landscape | Karlyn Holman, ArtistsNetwork.com

Step 1

 

Step 2: Spray the paints with a fine mister, starting at the focus of light and spraying to the edges of the paper. Continue spraying until you’ve circled the paper. When the colors have softened into a glow, use an oriental brush to tap in primary yellow, quinacridone gold and Antwerp blue as spots of color on the wet background.

Creating a Backlit Watercolor Landscape | Karlyn Holman, ArtistsNetwork.com

Step 2

Step 3: After the surface dries, use a natural-fibered brush and tap in pure colors to form the foliage. Start with Winsor yellow followed by quinacridone gold, scarlet lake and then Antwerp blue. Soften the edges of the colors with a brush loaded with clean water to create a vignette look.

Creating a Backlit Watercolor Landscape | Karlyn Holman, ArtistsNetwork.com

Step 3

Step 4: On dry paper, paint in the dark trees around the foliage using a mixture of quinacridone burnt orange and cobalt blue.

Creating a Backlit Watercolor Landscape | Karlyn Holman, ArtistsNetwork.com

Step 4

Step 5: Place the painting on a rigid board and remove the masking. Using a soft, wet toothbrush, scrub the circular forms to create a glow of light radiating from the sun source.

Creating a Backlit Watercolor Landscape | Karlyn Holman, ArtistsNetwork.com

Step 5

Step 6: Place the painting under slowly running water and continue to clean this glow of light directly under the faucet. The extra color will flow away, leaving your painting undisturbed. Let the painting dry. Finally, rub the painting with a damp tissue to form a streaked look that I refer to as “the fingers of God.”

Creating a Backlit Watercolor Landscape | Karlyn Holman, ArtistsNetwork.com

Step 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creating a Backlit Watercolor Landscape | Karlyn Holman, ArtistsNetwork.com

Focus of Light on Fall Trees (watercolor on paper, 15×11) by Karlyn Holman

 

 

 


Excerpted with permission from Watercolor—Making Your Mark by Karlyn Holman (Karlyn Gallery, 2013).

 

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