New Zealand Landscape Value Study

New Zealand Landscape. Michele Clamp . Watercolor. 11”x14” (photo credit to Terri Dangen)

A deceptively simple watercolor landscape value study was the precursor to this painting. Tuesday is teaching day so decisions had to be made and I plumped for this beach scene. It’s good for practice as there are obvious large shapes and clear values.

First a Small Landscape Value Study

Watercolor landscape value study
Landscape Value Study

Break the scene into big value shapes

The first thing was to break down the scene into a few large value shapes. These were the sky, the sand, the sea, the trees, and the rocks. A couple of these have multiple values in but I chose the average value in order to paint the study.

Sketch the shapes and identify the values

This is probably the most important part of the value study and it involves no painting at all! First I sketched the rough shapes in a small rectangle – probably about 4”x6”. Then Using my trusty Paul Centore value scale I first *estimated* what the value was for each shape. After taking a stab at the value I then brought in the value scale to check how close I was. If I’m within a step I’m pretty happy. It’s surprising how quickly you get better at this and the key to it is making a guess first rather than bringing in the scale immediately.

Note the values on the sketch

This is only a value study so we can mark it up however we want. I pencil in the value inside the shape so I can remember. So the sky and the sand were about a value 8. The sea was a 6 and the trees and rocks varied between a 5 and a 2. All these numbers went in the sketch.

Finally Paint the Value Study

And now we get to paint something. We’ve done a lot of the hard work here so it’s a case of mixing the value and painting it in the shape. I try and keep the value washes as even as possible so there aren’t stripes or brush marks. It keeps the values separated so we can judge how the composition is working. I usually do value studies in a sketchbook or on cheap student paper but this time I broke out the Fabriano Artistico. It’s not really needed as we’re not doing any edge work or blending but I had a small piece handy.

Some shapes have multiple values

The trees and the rocks have multiple values which show the form as the light hits them. In these shapes I used two values – a wash of the lighter value and then a much darker value on the shadow side to make them appear three dimensional.

There’s not a lot of detail in there. A few brush marks on the rocks brings everything together.

Assess the result

After I was done I stood back and assessed how the composition was working. In this case everything looked good. The value arrangement hung together and I was ready to go to the next stage. In particular I liked the way the sea was a mid value between the sky and the darks of the trees and rocks and tied the painting together. Another thing that I think worked well was the broad treatment of the rocks. I had used just two values and put in the shadows very broadly with a little softening of the edges. This simple treatment was surprisingly enough to make the rocks read well. Also the broad painting gives the study some energy and visual life.

Next Steps

In another post I’ll talk through the next stage which is mixing the colors. There are a couple of surprises in there which can catch you out. I have been caught unawares painting beach scenes quite recently and learned a few lessons which came in handy with this painting.

Orchard Beach, Maine

Orchard Beach, Maine. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 11”x14”

Still in Orchard Beach and a snowy picture of the ferris wheel. I wanted this to be somewhat subdued but maybe dialed it back too much. Has a nice touch to it though.

Some intermediates :

The drawing. Oh the ellipses! And the perspective! Thankfully everything meshes together in the painting if painted loosely enough.


Next the initial washes. A light sky and fairly grayed out tones for the buildings. The wheel is lightly touched in leaving areas of white to break up the lines.


More darks to add some solidity to the structures and more detail in the wheel. Still keeping a light touch.


The final thing. A little more detail on the fence and some loose work to define the foreground and we’re done. In hindsight I would probably have punched up the color a little more but I’m happy as is.


The original photo. I remember it being extremely cold.


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The Pier at Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Pier at Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Michele Clamp. Watercolor. 14”x11”


Old Orchard Beach, Maine


300.00
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I treated myself to some hot press paper and this is its first outing. We spent the New Year at Old Orchard Beach a couple of years ago and I snapped the pier which turned out to be a pretty nice composition.

For a first outing I’m pretty happy. No blending on the paper with hot press and with the fans and the heat the paint dries pretty much immediately. Some nice effects though.

Singing Beach

Singing Beach, Manchester-by-the-Sea. Michele Clamp. Watercolor 11″x14″


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We went to Manchester-by-the-Sea last week and strolled down to singing beach.   The sun was strong and, post labor day,  only a few people were on the beach.   Was almost perfect and deserved a painting.    Annoyingly I got too involved with the foreground and overdid it.   But it definitely captures the day.