Here's one painting I did recently along the Verde River. It was mid-morning, and the light was blindingly bright off the water. I worked with a limited palette of earth colors (raw umber, burnt sienna, yellow ochre) and painted tonally. To establish the feeling of glare, I had to step down the values of everything dramatically. As you can see, there's a big chunk of the tonal scale missing between the glare, which is my lightest value, and the rest of the painting. When I took it back to the studio, I noticed the only thing keeping it from becoming a nocturne were the rich, dark colors.
Glare on the Water 9x12 oil – Available Here
I decided to make another stab at painting this scene. I took my usual split-primary palette (a cool and warm version of each of the three primary colors) and purposely worked to keep the overall key higher. In order to achieve the glare effect, I juxtaposed complementary colors. Painting glare successfully requires you to manage both color and temperature contrasts. Value has only a little to do with it.
Spring Comes to the Verde River 8x16 oil – Available Here
For the main part of the glare, I used the lightest tint of yellow I could manage. I surrounded this with a tint of the complement, violet, making it just a step lower in value. Finally, I dabbed into the center of the glare area pure white. This alternated cool and warm to enhance the effect of the adjacent complements. The violet is a cool note, surrounding the yellow, which is a warm note; and the white in the center is a second cool note. You can see this in the detail below.
One warning about painting glare—it's hard on the eyes. I always wear sunglasses when painting into the light. If you suffer from eye problems or migraines, you might want to paint in another direction.