Cloaked in Gold

I love the way autumn builds to its peak color, first slowly, then with bold strokes. The reds and oranges are showstoppers, but it’s the yellows that hold it all together. Birch, walnut, hickory, cottonwood, beech, poplar, aspen, gingko, sassafras—all yellow. But my favorite is the luminous golden leaves of the bitternut, which come into their own in mid-October and quickly sail away like so many paper kites in gusts of wild wind.

Tips and Techniques– An all yellow subject is a bit tricky. The color is so light on the value scale, but you still need to create variations from light to dark for interest and depth. I used aureolin and quin gold, two very transparent yellows, as a base, and added burnt sienna and burnt umber for deeper tones. The shadows are cobalt blue. Keeping the entire palette transparent was important for avoiding heavy or murky yellows.  

19 Comments on “Cloaked in Gold

  1. Masterful! I think yellows are really tricky, but your shading looks perfectly natural.
    I don’t comment often, Jean, but I have to tell you that I get a little thrill when I see an email from you in my inbox. Your paintings delight and inspire me, and your approach to sketching and life speak of a kind and gentle spirit. Thank you for posting. I love your work!

    • So nice to hear from you Leslie– Thank you for your very thoughtful note. It makes me happy to know that you enjoy getting a bit of art and inspiration in your inbox. I just started following you on Instagram because I am not on Facebook or Artist Journal Workshop very often and I miss seeing your work. Have a great day! — Jean

  2. Jean you have captured my favorite color of autumn – the gold light helped along by the yellow leaves! Beautiful!

    • Hi Susan– So glad to hear. I almost “lost” this painting when I stepped away for awhile and had to come back when the light was different. Thank goodness yellow lifts easily. The golden light is lovely, isn’t it?

  3. I agree Jean! It’s all about the yellows in the fall. I’m blessed with a variety of them here also. I struggle with yellows, so your tips and most appreciated!

    • I can hardly believe that the leaves from this tree are now entirely on the ground. Just three days after I painted this! So…get out there and sketch before we’re left with browns!

  4. Leslie is not the only one to be thrilled when she sees one of your posts. Especially amid all the junk that clogs and inbox. Although I don’t paint, I love to hear the names of the colors and the process of creating a so beautifully natural image. This fall has been just gorgeous as if nature decided to reward us for all that has transpired. I just came in from photographing my own yard. We have an Aspen that is such a lovely color and because it’s so windy, I wanted to take a video. It’s fun to walk around and view things from a different angle so as to frame all this fleeting beauty.

    • Thanks Dawn! I hope the video captured it! Leaves are swirling here today and they are beautiful in the sunlight…but, man, have we got a lot of raking to do! I’m glad to know you like the tips, even as a non-painter. I figure they are there for the taking (or leaving) and I’m always happy to know that they are useful to the painters and interesting to others who follow the blog.

  5. I love all the yellow tones! And the light transparency of your painting. You’re inspiring me to work with mostly one color and its many of different tones (hues?) . I’ve never seen Aureolin. Is there another transparent yellow that is similar to it that you could recommend ?

    • I also have Hansa yellow medium, which is warm and transparent. It’s close to aureolin, but not quite as light. That said, it is more lightfast than aureolin. Check the transparency for the yellows you consider so that you can layer the colors easily.

  6. I picked up a few leaves along a walk the other day, hoping to capture their brilliant colors. It was the yellow one that gave me the most trouble. Thanks to you, now I know how to approach it! Thanks for your helpful hints😀

    • Hi Denise- I would be curious to know how it goes! Keep some areas of the yellow really light on the first pass so that you have room to go darker in subsequent layers. Good luck!

  7. This is lovely, you have captured a fleeting moment. Your leaves look paper thin just hanging there. I gathered some leaves yesterday but by today the yellow ones were brown!

    • It certainly was fleeting! I missed it the last two years, thinking I could get to it another day. Learned my lesson the hard way! These don’t last long on the tree. The oaks, on the other hand, I can still draw them (and rake them) til January. Sounds like yours turned SO fast!

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