A hole in the mountainPosted: August 2, 2020
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.