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Caroline Henry Art Blog

On Painting Fog

by Caroline , December 5, 2010—12:00 AM

Topics: Drawing, Landscape, color, light, oils, painting, pencil drawing, sea scape, shadow, technique, value, watercolor

Painting fog presents a different challenge in every medium. There is great variety in the fogs that the artist may be depicting. Wisps of fog hover low over an autumnal field. Pea soup fogs cut visibility to a few yards, or even a few feet, in every direction. Low lying coastal fogs can obscure the lower landscape leaving crisp clear views of lighthouses, cliffs or mountain tops, or the spires of the Golden Gate Bridge. The marine layer often plays cat and mouse games with the coast, approaching and withdrawing in its own mysterious ways. This is the fog of Emily Dickinson__™s short but vivid poem: The Sun and Fog contested The Government of Day __" The Sun took down his Yellow Whip And drove the Fog away We know that sometimes the fog wins, thus it is always a contest. Fog has drama. Sometimes fog is about muted colors in a fog-filled world. Where artificial lights are portrayed, they are haloed. The whole scene takes on a flat look. Edges are soft. In any medium, the artist will avoid high contrast while still working to keep and interesting mix of relatively dark and light values. It is when fog is moving in or out, or when fog is lying low and covering only part of the landscape, that treatment varies most among different media. In watercolor, areas out of the fog may look especially bright and fresh-washed, with hard edges and strong shadows, while foggy areas are lifted out of the shapes at the edges of the mist. If part of the scene is to be buried in heavy fog, the white of the paper might be finished with pale washes of gray blues with other colors dropped in. When you eyes strain into a fog, they find bits of the rainbow sparkling back from the murk. Graphite pencil allows the artist to create some side strokes and smudge in the foggy areas as in my drawing of Point Reyes Lighthouse. For the oil painting pictured here, I was dealing with an incoming fog up the coast, while the foreground was still in bright sunlight. The incoming fog extended further inland up beyond the headlands. Some of the whites are blended with blues in the sky areas and become dominant as we move to the left edge of the painting. White is scrumbled over the headlands and ocean areas of the upper left, giving a behind the veil effect.



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