Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Autumn - Passing the Peak

I'll return to the fundamentals soon.  In the mean time the fall painting season is in full swing.  In fact, it is passing the peak here in Southern Ontario as I write.

It was heavy overcast and rain today at Scotsdale Farm.  Gorgeous.

Cattle Shelter, Scotsdale Farm in October

The rain coupled with any breezes combine to bring down the leaves.  They are perhaps 30% down now.  Tree structure is showing nicely.  A pleasant break from riotous colour.  That brilliant colour field is fine in the context of the wide angle landscape.  In a crop of a painting it soon gets to be too much.  We have perhaps 10 days of this glorious colour.  Then..........

Here are a few suggestions for painting the fall landscape.

  • Paint on site.
  • Relax with a hot coffee and let the compositions register instead of hurrying to start.
  • Bring layers of your cold weather clothing.  You can take layers away, but hard to add what you don't have.
  • Look for the few masses required for a good painting.  Avoid letting colour trump simplicity.
  • Make sure you have cadmiums for your palette - yellow, orange, red.
  • If it is too garish, try using a restricted earth tone palette.  Enable the complements.
  • Consider dropping the value of the sky to provide colour contrast.  See the photo reference above.
  • Use complements, remaining greens, and muted yellows to offset the garishness.
  • After the peak use the tree structure and sky holes to give colour relief.
  • Look for vivid reflected colours.

Sky Contrast

Structure Visible, Stacking Opportunities

  • Look for opportunities to stack values - lights against darks against lights.
  • Look for foliage contrasts.
  • Consider understating the foliage.  Use complements to do this.
  • Use colours from each mass in each other mass to unify colour.
  • In the rain, get under the foliage.  Avoid this practice if lightening threatens.


  1. Thanks Pam, I be using them all this weekend painting around my daughter's wedding.