Using tone and colour to express mood

Reading through my watercolour book (“Watercolour Painting” by George James) I came to a page which talks about how mood can be expressed through colour (and, in my opinion tone too).  Mr James talks about how on normal days we are used to light skies and darker land and how if we invert this and have a dark sky with lighter colours at the bottom of the picture it makes the whole scene look threatening.

Along with his explaination is a lovely moody picture:


So I thought I’d have a go at painting something similar.

I began by using a tip from earlier in the book and stretching my paper before painting.  Basically – you wet the paper in the sink or the bath and then shake off the worst of the water and tape it down to a drawing board.  The tape holds it in place so that when it tries to shrink as it dries it stretches a bit.  This is supposed to help later when you want to really wet the paper again becuase it’s not supposed to stretch so badly when it gets wet a second time.


Now there is a special kind of tape which was recommened in the book but I only had regular decorator’s masking tape – so I used that.

Then once is was dry I sketched on a little scene and then painted some really light yellow right near the horizon getting less and less saturated as you go upwards.


Then I fooled around with the sky seemingly endlesssly – I couldn’t seem to get it to go dark enough and the paper didn’t want to accept the paint.  I kept getting this weird effect where the paint only stuck to the raised bits of the paper .  (The paper was Daler and Rowney 300gsm Aquafine from a pad.  I’ve had problems with this paper practically everytime I’ve used it.  I’m only usng it now because I’ve run out of anything else.)


Anyway, once the sky was vaguely dark enough I went on  painted the landscape below it.  I’ve not really done this before so it was a new adventure and brilliant fun!

Now the picture has a lot of faults – being overworked on the sky, poor balance in terms of composition in the clouds and marginal confusion with how my landscape was lit.  Bearing all of this in mind though, I think the dark sky and lighter land below really does look a bit moody – which is what I was aiming for.  I’ve called it ‘Cottage in Cornwall’  because I’ve seen skies like that frequently down there.



In terms of stetching the paper, it didn’t appear to behave any differently having been stretched.  Every time it got wet again it went just as bumpy as before.  What I did find really useful though was having the painting attached to a drawing board because then it was much easier to pick up so I could allow gravity to move the paint around.

It was a lot of fun to work on and I think I am beginning to feel more comfortable with darker washes and colours.



8 thoughts on “Using tone and colour to express mood

  1. I do like this painting. If you notice my australia bush oil pastels you will see I use vivid colour too. I think you have mastered the sky better in your later work..with the clouds. This one while good seems a little linear. Just me being picky I think. I do like it though.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The technique I was using involved painting onto a pre-wetted section of paper and then moving the paint around. I think I didn’t take enough account of how the water already laid down would dilute the paint, even though it was pretty thick on the palette. Also, the blue looks very very dark when wet and gets considerably lighter as it dries. 🙂


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