Last week’s Saturday class painting was about how to paint mist. In particular it was about painting mist around The Three Sisters in the Blue Mountains outside of Sydney.

The reference photo was provided by my friend Rob Weaver, The Backard Watercolorist, who captured this image from the Scenic Railway at Katoomba. It caught my eye straight away, though I have only just recently gotten around to painting it with my students. Mist can be quite a challenge to an artist because it has so many soft edges. It is even more difficult for the watercolor artist as you cannot afford to lose the light areas in your painting.

Mist around The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia. Reference photo for watercolor painting of mist.

Mist around The Three Sisters, reference photo for watercolor painting of mist.

The first step in this watercolor painting after a light drawing was to paint the initial under painting. To help preserve the light areas of the mist I painted this stage with my work upside down. I started with a very weak warm wash of dirty Cad Orange. In my case I just used the dirty colors that settled in the bottom of my Cad Orange paint well. Basically this is just a warm pale grey color.

I painted all the way down to the top of the sky. This was let to dry fully.

I then turned the painting right way up and painted the distant hill. I made sure to soften the edges at the bottom that will represent the mist.

After the distant hill dried I painted the hill on the right hand side – more softening of mist edges.

This was followed by the painting of The Three Sisters in silhouette. Once more the edges that are to become part of the mist are kept soft. I soften these edges by using a damp brush and softening the leading edge of the paint above. The damp brush soaks up a lot of the excess water from the wet wash above and stops it from continuing to flow down the watercolor paper.

Each time I soften an edge that lead into the mist area I also made sure to drop in hints of other colors. This was so the mist would not look white and flat. Mist reflects colors surrounding it including the sky. Here and there it also lets a hint of the green foliage through.

After this stage is totally dry I go in and paint the green foliage. I aim to create an interesting foliage pattern. I make sure to leave plenty of bird holes to show through to the mist beyond.

Once I have the foliage completed the finishing touch, before it dries, is to spray parts of the top of some foliage area to soften their edges. This further enhances the impression of mist. This can be a very frightening step as if you spray too much you will wash all the foliage paint away. And if you don’t spray enough your watercolor paint does not flow at all. The trick is to spray in such a way that you create an interesting variety of hard and soft edges in the trees.

Mist around The Three Sisters, watercolor painting by Joe Cartwright

Mist around The Three Sisters, watercolor painting by Joe Cartwright

At some point I will do a full demonstration article on this painting but for now hopefully it may assist you in tackling your own painting of mist!

If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment.