I have finally been able to do a painting from England. I attempted to do this one before with no photo available using the Rives in a large format and I really didn’t like it. So yesterday I powered up my Samsung and used it to get the needed detail and the coloring. I also decided to work smaller and on a trusty pastel surface–Pastelbord. This was our first real walk in the open moor and I had read a lot about the beauty of Exmoor. Unfortunately, we had our cloudiest weather there and the photo had a fairly dark cloud cover. But at times the sun came out and I used my photos and memory to give the sense of light on the distant hills. (For anyone who knows the area, this was a bridle path at Dunkary Beacon, the highest point in Exmoor.) We had it to ourselves, with the exception of one lost lamb who had gotten over the fence from where there were many sheep. (He wasn’t in this photo; I added him from another reference photo.) For the painting, I decided to first tone the board with watercolor, using a green gold that reminded me of the overall tone of the painting. It actually was quite light, but still gave a sense of warmth and glow. I began the lay in using hard pastels and pastel pencils (something I rarely do). The background detail was a challenge. There were defined fields and hedge rows, (really gorgeous) but they had to be softened. I started with various grayed greens, then added a grayed violet over them. I finally picked up a medium blue hard pastel and added that and it helped push it back. The other challenge was the foreground. The photo a lot of tall grasses, without much heather. The color and placement of the path were one of the things that attracted me to this particular scene, along with the dark bushes behind. I did not try to add the little stones and rocks as I was afraid I’d ruin it! Painting the sheep was another challenge. I drew him in with a pastel pencil, then I used various Giraults, adding and removing pieces of pastel. All of a sudden, I had an eye and his head turned a bit to the right and I was very happy with him. Since the field curves down to the right, I think the placement of the sheep at this spot arrests the downward motion and provides a focal point and something of interest.
Today I worked more on this painting that I shared an early version with 2 posts ago. It was almost done and I worked on it at home with some natural light coming in. I thought I’d include the black and white photo as well. This painting has definitely been more of a struggle than the first two and I’m sitll not sure that it is done. I didn’t really plan to paint it and then I did it over a period of a week or two. I’m glad that I did it, however. It makes a nice trio with Colorado Morning and Band of Trees. As to challenges: the large mass of trees was the first challenge. I wasn’t sure that I liked the shape, but I didn’t know what to do with it so I basically left it as it was. Then there was the light in the sky at left where the sun is. I went back and forth with whiter and yellower yellows until I was happy. The backlit trees were a challenge as well. I tried to give them the sense of being in bright light. I used a variety of blue greens, greens, and browns on them. Then today I added a beautiful red violet (I think it’s “Iris” from Great American) in several values and I was really happy! The red violet really sings against the yellow greens and earth tones. Overall the values are darker than those in the photo, I think and I fear that the surface is getting overworked. So I’m not sure whether to work further on it or not. What do you think???
I’m back after a wonderful couple of hours in the Montgomery County Agricultural Preserve. I went to Sugarland Road (near Poolesville) and decided to paint stubbled cornfields with bushes and trees. I liked the rise with the trees and the patterns of the bushes. This was the first plein air painting I’ve done since a very hot day in June! The temperature was very comfortable and the air smelled of grass–really wonderful. I did a hard pastel underpainting, using some browns for the fields. I was in full son while painting the bushes and trees and then, all of a sudden, a cloud came over and cast a shadow on the near field, while leaving light on the left and a lovely band of light across to the right. I immediately grabbed a lighter ochre pastel and laid in the shape of the light. It was one of those magical moments that you only get when painting outside. I was reminded, however, that the most difficult part of plein air painting–I believe–is value. Getting the value of the sky right was my first challenge. I started out with a turquoisy pastel from Great American (Beacon) that looked good until I started putting in the trees and realized that they weren’t coming out dark enough against the sky. So I went over it with lighter blues and violets until I felt it looked about right. The next challenge is always the greens! They all seem to be either too dark or too light. And I know that when I come inside they will look even darker. However, these challenges aside, it was great to be outside again working from nature instead of in my studio with four walls and a black and white photo! I’ll get back to that later.
I feel like I’ve been neglecting my blog! It’s been a busy time and I’ve been dealing with a number of issues, including upcoming classes. I started this painting in the studio several days ago so that I’d have a painting in process on the easel for our first “Third Thursday” event. I was glad to have it and I had the other two Colorado paintings on display as well. You’ll note that this is Colorado and not England. I discovered last week that my husband’s suggestion to lower the quality on the camera before we went to England resulted in pictures that couldn’t be printed out! I was very depressed but am now the owner of a nice little Samsung notebook on which I plan to load the images. However, for now, I’m back to Colorado and using the same Reeves surface. This time I decided to do an underpainting over the entire picture. I liked the effect of it. The brown at the bottom is all underpainting that I have yet to cover. I”m liking the color a lot, however, and don’t want to totally get rid of it. I’m also trying to use blue greens more than violets for a change and I’m enjoying that, particularly the blue greens from my Girault set. The warm browns look so good with the blue green! The surface is still something I’m unsure about. Being in the studio allows me to look at paintings done on UART and Pastelmat and there are times when I long for sanded paper. So, with that in mind, I’m planning to now go out and enjoy this beautiful day and do a plein on sanded paper! Maybe two. If successful, I’ll share with you, along with the finished painting of Morning Sunshine.
Friends–John and I are back from England and a wonderful two weeks. The second week was almost all sun. It was all beautiful–Exmoor, Cornwall, Dartmoor, Salisbury and Wells. The driving was the only negative and we won’t be doing it again. The roads are just too small and dangerous. But I was very thankful to have this last opportunity to see England on our own. I have 690 pictures!!! So you can expect to see paintings of England for awhile. On a different note, for those in the area, the Capitol Arts Network will innaugurate “Third Thursday” open studios on Sept. 19th, 5-8 pm. I’d love to see you in my studio. At the opening on Friday, I sold two unframed pictures and I wasn’t even there! So I’m very excited about this new chapter in my life. Hope you have all been well. Vacation is over and it’s time to get back to work!