Trees, clouds, reflections, deep water, autumn colors, deep shadows. This painting has a little bit of everything! A complicated scene but one accomplished with careful planning and a slow determined pace.
I started this piece by underpainting my paper with an oil-stain in Indian Yellow. I wanted the painting to glow! This effect could also be achieved by utilizing my favorite hard pastel/rubbing alcohol underpainting technique. You can see me do that here. (Test your paper before using any wet media to make sure it stands up to the harsher treatment.) This painting was painted on fabulous Uart in the 500 grit.
I step away from my pieces over and over, testing my shapes and values by blurring my eyesight slightly. I also like to take a quick phone picture of the paintings to study that little on-screen image. That small thumbnail will show you a lot! Inconsistencies really jump out when you’ve reduced the image. I used my dark gray pastel pencils for the left side bare tree trunks, holding them loosely and at arm’s length. I like to flick the pencil up, allowing it to skip and graze the surface. This creates twigs, branches, and trunks much more loose and free than those we work to painstakingly render.
I keep all the pastels I pull from my large studio box in a smaller pie plate. This helps me find the pastels I’ve used and also helps create a consistent palette. Pastel boxes are so enticing with their plethora of colors but this doesn’t always work in our favor! The more we limit ourselves in our palettes, the more cohesive the work becomes. I used my Terry Ludwig set of Umber pastels for much of the light-lit trees. I also used a very bright orange for the right side trunk because that’s what color the trunk was! Our brains want to tell us that trunks are brown, grass is green, water blue, etc. The more time spent observing and noticing values, colors, and what light is *really* doing in the landscape, the better and easier our job becomes at the easel. I like to play a game with myself that’s basically “what color is that and how would I paint it?” Anytime I’m driving the kids around or running errands, I study and think this through. I make mental color notes when I’m not able to take real notes in my field sketch book and have a million and two pics on my phone of quick snaps of colors, shapes, and values in my surroundings.
This week is a challenge for you to simply observe! Spend some time just looking at your surroundings, making mental notes (or real ones in your sketchbook) of the color and value relationships you see. Is that apple on your counter really red? What color does the morning light cast on your house? On your trees? If you were to isolate that color in a dropper, what would it be? It’s trickier and often much more complex than the rote answer we’re accustomed to!
*This page contains Affiliate links