Acrylics: Mountain Lake Landscape (demonstration)

After coming across some palette knives in my art cupboard the other day, I decided it would be fun to try my hand at a palette knife painting. It had been a while since I’d painted a landscape so I snooped through the Reference Image Library on WetCanvas and came across a few nice mountain landscapes with lakes, uploaded by mclmd. In the end I only used the palette knives for a few sections, but I still had fun painting it, and I thought it would make a good demonstration post.

M Graham Acrylics:
-Hansa Yellow
-Quinacridone Rose
-Ultramarine Blue
-Burnt Sienna
Derivan Matisse Structure Acrylics:
-Phthalo Blue
-Titanium White

Brushes and Palette Knives
Assorted Ebony Splendor Flats (sizes 1 to 1 inch)
Ebony Splendor Round (size 1)
Filbert (size 6)
Palette knives with diamond-shaped blades (small and medium)

Chroma Atelier Interactive Clear Painting Medium (any flow or clear medium will work just as well)

Step 1

Mix a small amount of Phthalo Blue with lots of Titanium White to create a sky colour. Using horizontal strokes, cover the whole canvas. Add more Titanium White to the mix and use this to create a lighter band of blue across the centre of the picture, gradually blending back into the darker blue as you go towards the top and the bottom. Wait for this to dry. (if I had my time again I would have made the lighter area of my painting even lighter than it is, but you know what they say about hindsight being 20/20…) You will probably want to add some clear painting medium to your paint here so it flows easily across the canvas (alternatively you could use fluid acrylics for this step instead).

Mix up some Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and a bit of Titanium White and paint in the mountain shapes (again, you might want to add some clear painting medium). Make one mountain bigger than the other and try to vary the shapes (make one a bit pointy with the other being flatter/more rounded). Try to make your brush strokes follow the contour of the mountains by starting at the top of the mountain and then dragging the brush down. Though much of this will be covered in later stages, it helps to give the mountain shape.


Step 2
Mix up more of the mountain colour with Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna and Titanium White (it doesn’t matter if it’s exactly the same colour). This should be a thick mixture so don’t dilute it with water or any mediums. Using your palette knife, pick up some paint and spread it onto the mountains, as if you were putting Vegemite on your toast. Once again, make the texture from your knife strokes follow the shape of the mountain. This will take a while to dry, so go off and do something else for a bit (I went for a walk to catch some Pokemon in Pokemon GO).

Make up a lighter mixture of the same colour and using the same method, apply it down the right side of the mountains; this side will be in shadow. Now make an almost white mixture with just a hint of your mountain colour to apply to the left side of the mountain. Squeeze out a small amount of pure white and spread this just along the left edge of the light area to create highlights. Now you have some nice, snow capped peaks overlooking your lake.

Paint the shoreline under the mountain with a reasonably dark mix of Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue. Add more Burnt Sienna to make it lighter and then paint the little outcrop of land on the left, which is closer to the viewer. Darken the top half of each of these brown areas by adding more Ultramarine to their respective mixes; as this land recedes, it will be shadowed by the trees we will put in later, so it should be darker than the front area which will be in the light.


Step 3
Mix some Phthalo Blue, a small bit of Hansa Yellow and a little Burnt Sienna to make a dark bluish green. Using a flat brush, dab this along the shoreline in an irregular zig-zag pattern to show the trees. Add a little Titanium White to this colour to lighten it slightly, and then go over the tree line again, letting some of the darker colour show through in places. Add a small amount of Hansa Yellow to the mix and use the palette knife to dab it on over the tree line, allowing these triangle marks to represent pine trees. Once this is dry, add a little more Hansa Yellow and some Burnt Sienna to make a warmer green, then paint in a couple of slightly more detailed trees along the shoreline. The brighter green will make them look like they are closer than the rest of the trees. Don’t go overboard with this; two or three trees will be enough, otherwise it will look too ‘busy’. Vary the spacing between your brighter trees. Mix a tiny bit of your Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue mix into Titanium White and use a fine round brush to draw in some lines to represent tree trunks to help break up the dense green trees. Again, do this sparingly.


Step 4
Mix some Hansa Yellow with a bit of Quinacridone Rose to make a deep orange. Using a narrow flat brush, run a line of this orange along the shoreline just under the trees. Blend it down to a line of darker brown where the land meets the water.

Now it’s time to paint the reflection. Start with your deep orange to put a line under your dark brown shoreline. Get your bluish grey from your mountains and dry brush this into the water in downward strokes. Make sure you line up the reflection in the water with what is above it, paying attention to the size and placement of the mountain reflections. Once you have brushed in the whole mountain reflection, pick up some of your lighter bluefish grey and brush in the highlights on the left of the mountain reflections. While this is still wet, pick up your dark green from your tree line base and brush this on in the same manner, starting at the orange shoreline and blending it down into the mountain reflection. Where you have placed brighter, yellow-green trees, put a downward slash of the same yellow-green mixture into the water, and then squiggle in some reflected tree trunks with the same pale brown-grey mix you used in step 3.


Step 5
All that remains now is the little island. If you have some dark green left, brush this into the top part of the island. Blend this down into pure Burnt Sienna for the outer third or so of the island, and then down to a line of dark brown (Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue) at the water’s edge. Let this dry.

Mix up a dark green with Phthalo Blue, Hansa Yellow and some Burnt Sienna. Using the tip of your flat brush, dab in the trunk of your three conifer trees, varying the heights and making some of them lean slightly. Pick up more paint and dab on the branches, making them point down and outwards. As you get further down the tree, make the branches longer until they reach the ground. Add a little more Hansa Yellow and dab this mixture down the left side of the tree to create the highlights, bringing a few dabs around to the front/middle of the tree. Don’t do as many highlights on the middle tree; it is further back than the other two, so it should look darker.

Add some Quinacridone Rose and Hansa Yellow to your Burnt Umber to get an earthy orange and dab in some dried grass around the base of the trees. Use an upward flicking motion with your brush (I used a Filbert) to create a grassy texture. Add some darker brown directly under the trees to create shadows. Using a narrow flat brush, dry brush some of your brown-orange into the water reflection, and then brush some of the dark green tree colour in below it. Brush a little lighter green (with more yellow added) into some sections to show the light side of the trees. Put out some Titanium White and clear painting medium to make a watery white mix. Using the smallest round you have, paint a few thin white lines across the surface of the water (don’t do too many) to represent ripples. You could also pick up the paint on a palette knife by smearing it on the palette, scraping it up with one edge and carefully pressing the edge to the water to deposit a line of paint.


Now your painting is finished, so make a slightly paler green than your dark tree colour and add your signature in the bottom left corner.

I hope you enjoyed painting this landscape. Leave a comment if you have any questions 🙂

This entry was posted in Acrylic, Demonstrations and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.