The foreground layers

Painting Landscapes - The foreground layers

The base layer is there and I can see the beginnings to my tussock country but first lets reflect on the type of environment we are painting. The tall grass is burnt brown in colour and clumped together. They extend way back as far as I can see into the foothills and the mountains. I can see more texture in them the closer they are.

A recent snowfall has settled into a delicate base of snow between the clumps of grass. I can only see snow from this angle extending back some 200 metres. The tussock is extending into the mid-ground towards the mountains and I can't see as much detail in it from this far away. I certainly can't see the snow that lies at ground level under it from this distance. Good, because this is going to help me create depth across the tussock plains.

The foreground at the bottom of my composition is completely different. Big clumps of tussock dominate this area with a nice little pond of melted snow just above this. Lots of interest for the eye here! Applying the texture that will go into the tussock is going to be lots of fun but I am not going to rush it. The texture and tones will be built up in layers and stages.

I spend a lot of time mixing paint for the tussock. Various tones of browns and caramel colour using tubes of Ochre's, Umber's and Sienna's. Yellow Ochre and Raw Sienna are very useful here, as well as some Light Red and Titanium White.

Combinations of these colours will give endless mixing results.

Keep your palette moving with lots of separate colours. Use Fat mix here because we are now painting the top layers into your painting. Not too much mix, just enough to loosen the paint up so it is easy to apply is the general rule.

Starting with the tussock under the foothills I apply some colour with a small 10mm or quarter inch flat brush. To give a perception of depth as mentioned above we must assume that what is further away from our eye is smaller and less detailed then similar features closer to us. Tussock is a good example of this and the reason I am choosing this painting to demonstrate.

The recent snowfall has settled on the ground around the tussock clumps so I mix some white and blue white tones for this. I am using a fresh clean palette so I don't contaminate my whites with my earthy colours. Or I will easily end up with a mix of very light tones of Brown.

I apply paint down my canvas ending above the proposed reflected water feature. My first layer done, I let the paint tack off over the next 12 hours. Resuming the next layers I mix some slightly lighter tones of similar colour to bring in more highlight. I am even using an old toothbrush to apply my texture. This is giving me a pleasing grassy like result and just what I am looking for. I won't be using that brush on my molars again.

The tussock country is just a 2-3-step process of building up colour, highlights and texture.

The bottom fifth of my canvas will be the area closest to view and I have decided the small puddle of melted snow will reflect some colour around it so now it is time to paint reflections.

I define reflection as an impressionistic inverted replication of realistic features. Confused?

Reflections are very pleasing landscape features and can be achieved in much the same way as the rest of the painting. In layers. They are often soft and muted contrasts to what is above. Because light is being randomly bounced by the often-uneven water surface, they can be seen as true impressions in the Landscape.

I paint the reflection by blending earth brown tones in a vertical pattern down into the water. I then wait for this to tack off then I put the next layer of reflected sky and snow in a horizontal pattern. The level of blending on canvas will decide how muted the tones are. I am going for a muted cold look to the reflection making it very low on contrast. I use a very soft brush to blend the tones on the canvas.

The tussock clumps at the bottom of my painting are very pronounced and will lead the eye through the grass's and over the plains to the mountains beyond. I mix up a palette of earth tones similar to the tussock above with one exception. I want some more colour contrast here, so I mix a little Burnt Sienna to bring out the reds more.

Much of my highlights have been done wet on dry but this time I am going to work wet on wet and finish the tussock in one go. I apply the deep tone bottom layers first in a sweeping direction following the tussocks natural wind blown curves.

Now using a thin sable brush I apply mid-tones and highlights in the same direction blending a few into the darker tones to create depth into the tussock. I continue this for a while until all foreground tussocks has shape and colour. I stand back to admire and reflect on my work.