Tickle your whites, and avoid 100% black

When I’m doing paintings, when I get to the highlights, especially if it’s a warm object that needs a highlight, the whiter it goes, the intensity doesn’t seem to be quite as bright. So I will usually tickle it with a little bit of green and blue, or a touch of magenta and blue, in the white, just to kind of feel it vibrate a little bit, to see if it’ll separate as a highlight….

Something I always try to avoid is going 100% white or 100% black. You just kind of lose colour completely, or you go flat, or it clips.

Mike Hernandez on the Plein Air Podcast

Copy of James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s Nocturne in Blue and Silver 1872–78

Copy of Whistler's Nocturne in Blue and Silver 1872-78
Acrylic on paper. Zoom in to see the subtle highlights.

This is a copy of another painting I found in Mystical Landscapes: From Vincent Van Gogh to Emily Carr. I’m not quite sure why this one is called Nocturne in Blue and Silver. Unlike many of Whistler’s other nocturnes, I couldn’t see any blue in this one.

Copy of Ferdinand Hodler’s Lake Geneva with Mont Blanc in the morning light

Lake Geneva with Mont Blanc in the morning light, by Ferdinand Hodler
Acrylic on paper

I was inspired by Katie Turner’s post on studying the masters to do another copy. I found this painting in the book Mystical Landscapes: From Vincent van Gogh to Emily Carr.

Looking at the reproduction on WikiArt, there’s a much greater shift from cool to warm in the colour (from right to left) compared to the image in the book. So I didn’t quite capture that. I also struggled to achieve the fantastic brushwork and scumbling on (cheap) paper. And I didn’t use quite the right blue either. (I just used ultramarine.) Having said that, I’m pretty happy with how it came out.

I agree with Katie that studying and copying masters (whether true “old” ones or just great painters that you admire) is beneficial—and fun.