A hole in the mountain

Rue du Quai in Pointe-au-Pic is a popular spot for many reasons. There’s a row of colourful buildings at the base of a cliff, a spectacular view of the bay, a steep staircase that leads you up to the historic Le Manoir Richelieu hotel, a railway stop for the Train de Charlevoix and an iconic snack bar. On the overcast morning that I painted it, the masked crowds had just departed on the train, heading towards Baie St. Paul.

I chose to paint this view because having the dark cliff and the distant mountains in the sketch is so typical of many of the views in Charlevoix. That’s the reason I like painting there. There’s always a wall of trees or rocks behind everything. In fact, if you look up the topography of the region, you’ll find out the rolling hills were created by the impact of a meteorite about four million years ago.

Compositionally, this was a difficult sketch because of the road that curves up the left and the tracks and path a bit lower down that curve to the right. Plus I sketched standing up, with my palette precariously balanced on a fire hydrant, just to make things even more challenging.

When I got home I realized that the sketch didn’t really work well because the light rocks of the cliff and the dark trees around the rocks were too different in value. I pulled out my palette and darkened the rocks with a light wash of grey. In hindsight, with some advance planning on my part, I could have avoided the problem.

After I did the sketch in colour, I wanted to evaluate where I went wrong, so I created two value sketches to analyze the problem. My first colour version was something like the “before” sketch below. The rocks on the cliff were about the same value as the sky, so compositionally, there was a hole in the cliff.

After I darkened the rocks, it became more like the “after” sketch. The trees and rocks combined to form a more unified shape. This is something I will try to remember when I turn some of my Charlevoix sketches into larger watercolours.

9 Comments on “A hole in the mountain”

  1. Stephanie Descoteaux says:

    You are so, so clever. It is a peaceful country scene but dynamic and lively as well. You practically have a yin yang going on. Bravo Shari! This is full tableau worthy.


  2. Appreciate your analysis of the complexities of the scene.

    Regards Mary (Molly) Harvey


    Liked by 1 person

  3. urbansketchersmumbai says:

    I see what you mean. I love that raw sienna mix that is in the mountains as well as the foreground. It really binds the whole picture together.

    Sent from my iPhone



  4. Jean says:

    Such an interesting post, both for the art lesson and for the info about the meteorite collision so long ago! Thank you!


    • Thanks Jean. It really is an interesting area. And the edge of the crater is very obvious when you are there. There’s even a museum of the crater, if you can believe that, but of course I was too busy painting to visit it. Maybe next time!


  5. Nieves says:

    Hi Shari,
    Thanks for the interesting explanation about your struggle with the values in the mountains, the sketch with the correction help a lot to understand.
    I can see that maybe there is also a “problem” with the hard line/curve in the middle of your sketch which is dividing it strongly in two sides.The two sides are of the same value, I think that’s because my eye doesn’t know where to go.
    all the best


    • Claudia, I think you are probably right about that too. I take the viewer out of the picture on both sides. There are so many things to remember in composition. It is something I will watch out for when I create a larger watercolour!!


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