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Denver Watercolor Class Teacher Dennis Pendleton

High Key Painting

Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. I thought it would be interesting to show one of my plein air paintings plus a picture of my subject (see below). This was painted on a sunny day in my Taos Watercolor Workshop and my main interest was capturing the famous Taos sunlight. To accomplish this, I decided to do a high key painting where I only used light and middle values. In the photograph you can see how dark and uninteresting the shadows and cast shadows are while in my painting they are full of color. The camera is a helpful tool but it usually does not record the reflected color that you see in shadows and cast shadows when painting on location.


What an artist leaves out is often just as important as what he or she includes and I left out a lot of the weeds, branches and other clutter along the fence and adobe wall. I wanted the fence to lead the viewers eye across the foreground to the adobe wall and along the wall to the gate and all the clutter I mentioned would have prevented this. This zig zag composition is one I enjoy using in landscapes because it moves the viewer through the painting without being to obvious.


Another decision I made was to lighten the tree leaves with a spring green because I thought the original dark greens were to heavy for a high key painting and I also wanted more of the sky poking through the leaves. It is hard enough trying to capture what I am seeing on a little piece of watercolor paper and I am always looking for little changes that might improve my painting.


For the adobe wall and building, I used a mixture of yellow ochre and cobalt violet and the ground is the same with the addition of a little cerulean blue. The tree leaves are lemon yellow plus cerulean blue and the trunks were painted with burnt sienna and French ultramarine blue. The sky is cerulean blue and the windows are a darker version of the same. The mailbox is cadmium red and the grass along the wall and building is olive green plus lemon yellow. In a few weeks I will be heading to Taos for my annual workshop and I think I will visit this location to see if it would be another interesting subject. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton



Watercolor Artist's Blog by Dennis Pendleton

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