Light, atmosphere and a sense of place—those are the things I?m after in my paintings. And to capture those qualities, I believe you must focus on believable colors and values. So to ensure that my paintings convey the messages I intend, I purposely leave out unimportant details so that the viewer can become more involved in the overall feeling of the painting.
Everything I paint is based on information gathered on-site. Even when I?m painting in the studio, I work from field sketches and/or slides, accumulated memory and personal experiences. To capture any given color that I see, I ask myself four questions: What?s the hue? What?s the value? What?s the temperature? and What?s the intensity? I answer all of the questions purely in relation to the color?s surroundings.
I use no earth tones on my palette, so every color I use is mixed from these six choices: ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, alizarin crimson, cadmium red light, cadmium yellow medium, and cadmium yellow pale or lemon. Sometimes I?ll also include viridian green. This palette gives me an extreme warm and extreme cool of each primary color, which allows me to mix a wide range of harmonious colors. I use the same colors no matter what or where I paint, with one exception—if I need an intense flower color, I may add hues like phthalo rose.
If you want to create an accurate sense of place and natural colors in your work, nothing beats firsthand observation. By studying your subject carefully, you begin to see reflected light bouncing into the shadows or subtle changes in color temperature—things that are often lost in photographs. What?s more, you?ll begin to build up a storehouse of memories relating to the subtleties of outdoor scenes.
With works in the collections of the University of Delaware, the Supreme Court of the United States, The National Cathedral of Washington, D.C., and more, Margaret Huddy is an internationally recognized master artist. A signature member of both the American Watercolor Society and the National Watercolor Society, she teaches classes at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C., and at the Art League School of Alexandria, Virginia. Her work appeared in Splash 5: Best of Watercolor (North Light Books, 1998).