You’ll Love This Quick Approach to Painting Fog

Painting the light effects created by fog can be frustrating at first. Fog is generally moving, so trying to paint it on-site makes the scene ever-changing. This can be maddening, and may cause artists—like Claude Monet—to put a foot right through their canvas! Since we don’t want you to feel foggy when painting, or ruin any of your precious art supplies, we’re here to share a quick and simple solution.

Painting Fog | The Artist's Road | Artist Daily

Supersized Photo Reference

For our oil classes, we developed a good exercise which can go a long way toward elucidating the fundamentals of painting fog effects. Instead of trying to keep up with a moving subject, we have our class work in the studio, using one of our photos greatly enlarged.

To make it even more interesting we use an image taken on an exceptional day, when warm yellow sunlight back-lit the subject, turning the normally cool-toned bluish-gray fog effect on its pictorial head. Everything in our subject was suffused with this yellowy tone, even the snow. This can present a serious color mixing and value-matching challenge.

The Value of Color Mixing

Using a large, strong photo reference (such as the one we use in our class), break the image down into large masses of tone and then carefully analyze and match the values and temperatures of those in a pool of color mixed on the palette.

For our yellow-infused, fog-filled image, we identified four main masses in the subject and started to mix the darkest values of each color first. This was followed by mixing a color string of the other tones within that mass until we had all the apparent colors/values mixed and ready. This may sound like a tedious approach to the problem, but it doesn’t take long to do–and it’s a very accurate method.

The importance of this process cannot be overstated. It can save artists  from constantly making corrections to colors and main values when painting, which can greatly speed up progress while adapting to a shape-shifting subject outside.

Any of the color strings can be cross-mixed with another and still work as a whole. All that remains when painting is to lighten, or perhaps darken, your colors as necessary.

In short, this exercise is great for teaching artists how to assess colors and tones as large masses/shapes and quickly mix up the correct matches—important, since painting fog is a kind of performance art. Painting outside means there will be moments when the fog lifts in basically no time at all, and your once hauntingly beautiful subject for your next masterpiece has, well, literally evaporated.

We hope you join us on The Artist’s Road for more insightful articles, interviews with artists, fun demonstrations as well as for discounts to The Artist’s Road Store.

–John and Ann

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John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

About John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

John Hulsey and his wife, Ann Trusty created the website, The Artist's Road - Painting the World's Beautiful Places.  The Artist's Road inspires with practical art tips and painting techniques for the traveling artist, video painting tutorials and demonstrations, workshop resources, artist profiles and interviews and remarkable painting locations.  The Artist's Road is an artist community for oil, watercolor and pastel artists.  Articles cover intriguing art travel experiences artists have had while painting the world's beautiful places. "I believe I must speak through my art, for the preservation of Nature and the natural landscape from which I take my inspiration and living." John Hulsey is an accomplished artist, author and teacher who has been working professionally for over thirty years. In addition to producing new work for exhibition and teaching workshops, Mr. Hulsey continues to write educational articles about painting for national art magazines, including Watercolor magazine and American Artist Magazine. He has been selected as a "Master Painter of the United States" by International Artist Magazine where his work was previously chosen to be included in the top ten of their international landscape painting competition. He was awarded residencies at Yosemite, Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks. "I strive in my art to celebrate the mysteries of Nature - the fleeting light on the landscape, the unimaginable diversity of creatures, the beauty of each leaf and flower." Ann Trusty  is an accomplished third generation artist whose work embodies the natural world and is created through direct observation and translation of her subjects into her paintings. She has found inspiration in the dancing light across the water of the Hudson River (where she had a studio for ten years), as well as the big sky and waving tall grasses of the open plains of the Midwest (her current home). Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States, France and Turkey in both museum and gallery exhibitions, and has been reviewed favorably by the New York Times.