Once the smallest manned lighthouse in the UK, the Bona Lighthouse on the Caledonian Canal kept ships safe with a single paraffin lamp in a bedroom window. Today the building has been restored into a holiday house, rooms rent for about $100 a night.
Ever since I saw this tiny lighthouse from the window of the Jacobite cruise ship, I’ve wanted to paint it. Below is the front view of Bona Lighthouse on the River Ness.
Step 1 – Choose the vantage point. Which angle best reflects your feeling of the place? Do you want a worms eye view or a birds eye view? The front view is expansive and makes the place look more grand while the rear view is more compact. The I choose the rear view because the condensed angle eventuates the quaintness. It’s also got a path down to a rocky river bank that adds interest to the composition.
Step 2 – Sketch it!
For my value study I’m using a 9″x12″ canvas board that I toned with yellow ocher. This size is a bit small for me but it’s good for travel painting and ultimatley easier and cheaper to ship. This small sketch will make a great reference for a subsequent larger piece and ultimately be sold at a low pricepoint; when trying to develope a customer base it helps to have a variety of sizes and prices.
Step 3 – Light versus Dark
Before I start adding color, I note where my lightest and darkest values are.
Step 4 – Start at the top
When paining landscapes, I always start with the sky and any distant elements, like a mountain range. Even if you change them later, just getting the basic background tones in will help you judge colors for the foreground. The foreground images overlap the background so you can reinforce that by laying the lighthouse in thicker and ontop of the background. Working top to bottom also means your hand won’t be laying of the wet paint.
Step 5 – Block in your main elements
Next I’ll try to fill in the rest of the composition with basic shapes and color.
Step 6 – Adding pops of color
Get lost in the work. Turn on your favorite music and get lost in the paint. Remember to use colors other than green; landscapes can be boring if its all shades of green so you’ll want to push the colors. Look for areas of yellow, orange or reds and exploit those. If you see a slight bit of yellow go ahead and throw in a dab of cadmium yellow then balance it by added a few more throughout the piece. These dabs of bright color will move the viewer’s eye around the canvas. Don’t be bashful, adding bold colors will breath life into a your work. Put them in early and then allow bits of green to fall over them and they will feel more integrated.