This was a fairly complicated picture for me and not what I usually do. The photo was similar, but the barn was less defined and the reds were all cool and rather dull. I began the underpainting with a drawing of the barn and some basic colors. Warm under the barn, pale orange under the sky, warm greens under the reds, and cool magenta under the grass in foreground. In the photo, the other color along with the reds was a yellow orange. I decided that I didn’t like this and went with a warm green instead. By using the warm greens in the underpainting, I had the background color that I wanted. I covered most of it, but it was still a help.
You will notice that in the underpainting, I have doors on both sides of the opening at right. I realized that this didn’t work at all and got rid of the one on the right. What I’m not seeing in my photo is the turquoises in the barn and the aquas in the door. I didn’t think that the painting was working at all until I added the warmer red oranges to the red areas. Suddenly it came alive! I wanted the reds to be more concentrated on the left and fade off to more greens on the right. The sky is the same light red violet that I used in my painting House with Golden Roof. Both of these photos were taken on the same day within a very close proximity of one another. I made up the pale background on the right, feeling that it needed more distance, and I kept the edges of the barn very soft, except in a few places. What I think works here is the dark, rich greens against the variety of reds in the bushes, moving up to the more lacy sumac leaves at top. I really had no idea whether this painting would work or not! I did no studies for it, but I had an idea of what I wanted to do and I think it worked. The image of the underpainting is before I had added the alcohol, except in upper left corner (thanks Sunny!).
Autumn Reds, 20 x 24, UART 400
I’m sharing with you this week’s demos for my two classes. I didn’t have my camera and don’t have pictures of the underpaintings, unfortunately, but I’ll discuss them. The one on the left is today’s demo. I decided to use local color in the underpainting, using colors of hard pastels that were a little darker and duller, but that would provide a good undercolor of similar hue. I used a violet and aqua for the rocks. Then I did the entire first pass using Giraults. Finally, I went back to the soft pastels for the yellow bush and colors in the rocks. I think this is the more successful of the two paintings. The composition was fairly straightforward and getting the water and reflections was not too difficult. I did everything in a vertical stroke to begin with, then used some horizontals and diagonals to get the surface of the water.
The second painting (on the right) was done on Monday. In the photo, the bush in foreground was all green. I decided to turn it into fall colors to give it more life. I really liked the shine on the water and shape of the bush. I did the water first. I did a light drawing of the bush to begin with, but did not include it in my underpainting. I really wanted to be able to focus on the water, which was rippling nicely and had such lovely lights and darks. Having done that, I put the bush in on top, using Giraults and soft pastels. I had only the color photo so nothing to really reference, except for the values of the greens. I found it difficult not to want to use the colors in front of me, and wished I’d also brought a B&W. I didn’t want to over do it. I do think that the warm fall colors are more interesting against the blues in the water than the dull greens of the photo. The spot of light on water is a Roche whitish yellow green. In the underpainting of the water, I used a variety of values of blue, with a light aqua in the lightest spot. I’m still not happy with the background, which i have tried to soften a number of times! The dark shaoe of trees is too prominent and needs to be less defined, I think.
Both pictures are from the C&O Canal at Great Falls, Maryland. John and I went last Friday on a perfect fall afternoon and I shot 100 pictures. Tomorrow we leave for a weekend in Iowa, where on Saturday we will be touring the bridges of Madison County!!! Who knew that these were south of Des Moines! Expect to see Meryl Streep.
Canal Reflections, 11 x 14, UART 400
Canal Light, 11 x 14, UART 400
I’m back to what I really love to paint–houses! I saw this one in rural Pennsylvania last Friday and painted it on Wednesday. The color of the roof was what I can only call butterscotch! But the photo of it came out white. So I had to try to remember what I saw. I took a number of shots from different perspectives and liked this one best because it gave me enough foreground, plus the distance in the upper right corner. What excited me, in addition to the roof, was the array of leaves both in front of the house and to the upper right.
Doing a picture like this is complicated because of the layers. I actually used a lot of local color in the underpainting on this one. But I used aqua under the roof and blue under the house. The sky and house are two values of red violet. I added some warm blue into it in spots and into the bushes to pick up the blue in the distant hills. I used my softest pastels for the leaves, progressing from greens to yellow greens and several values of yellow. I softened the background to the right of the house with various blue and red violets and added hints of orange and green to give it depth.
House with Golden Roof, 16 x 20, UART 500
Just before doing the second fog picture, I completed this very different and much more difficult picture from our May trip to Venice. I took a lot of pictures of the canals and their reflections and envisioned doing a whole series of 12 x 16s. I’ve done 2, that might be enough! For this one, I made a very important compositional change: I removed the brown side of a church behind the roof in the upper right corner. This opened up the picture to the sky and also allowed the shape of the roof to be more prominent. I used brown Pastelbord and began with a light charcoal drawing, then hard pastels. I did everything with hard pastel, layering and redrawing as I went. I used local color, as much as possible, but generally brighter or darker, given the colors available in the hard sticks. (I have at least four brands: NuPastel, Faber-Castell, Caran d’Ache, and Richeson.) The second layer consisted of all Giraults for the buildings and boats, and soft pastels for the sky and water reflections. The picture was taken on an early morning walk, with light dappling the warm brick walls. Venice IS a gorgeous city! I purposely didn’t take pictures of the gondolas, favoring the small boats owned by the home owners.
This painting was somewhat tedious–particularly compared to my fog paintings. But I do love painting buildings and I had fun with the composition on this one.
Morning Light, Venetian Canal, 16″ x 12″, Pastelbord (brown)
Yesterday, I spent the afternoon in my studio with two fellow pastel artists and decided to do another “finger painting” from the Oregon coast. I thought I had used the same pastels that I used in the first one, but was surprised at how light this one came out. In this one, there are two small figures at the point of a large triangle, created by the fog bank and the water on the sand. I loved this! Did the figures very quickly with hard pastels and didn’t belabor them. It was fun to do another of these paintings–they seem to be very popular on Facebook! But it’s not the way I’d want to work. I found that after I’d smudged several layers in the sky, it was piling up and not working as well. The final layers of the fog were not smudged at all. I used my Blue Earth pastels for much of the fog and Giraults for the sand. (My husband told me that if I practiced doing the figures, some day I’d be able to make them really big!!!)
Lifting Fog Bank, 24″ x 18″, Wallis Museum Grade
And now for something completely different! I was in the studio on Wednesday with extra time and decided to work with a photo from the beach in Oregon. I had a mounted sheet of 18 x 24 white Wallis. There was almost no detail in the photo–shape-wise. All amorphous fog lifting with some beautiful pieces of sky behind. I decided to just lay in some hard pastels in blues and aquas and do a dry underpainting with my hand. However, it was so much fun that I just kept on going! Last Saturday I was at the demonstration by John Held at my gallery in Bethesda. Some of you know John, or will have seen his work in my book. John works completely out of his head, putting down pastel and seeing where that takes him. And he smooshes it all! I have always taught my classes not to use their hands in order not to kill the pastel. However, I can see that for clouds and sky it can be a really useful technique.
Compare this painting to the one of the Newport light house. In that painting, I put in a solid layer of hard pastel, then used soft pastels on top with no finger blending. Given the strokes and rough nature of the bottom of the picture, I think this works well. However, in this picture, the bottom is also blended. However, I did this with pastels and very little finger interaction.
I broke two of my own rules doing this painting: not to use my hands too much and not to work directly on white. And it worked just fine! But it’s not the look that I want to create on a regular basis. However, after the tedious detail of the house and hydrangea picture, this freely-applied pastel was really fun! And the visitors to my studio at last night’s opening really liked it as well. I thought it needed some gulls, but two men agreed that that would make it trite and that I should leave them out. Fine with me!
Morning Fog, 24 x 18, Wallis Museum grade
I had another small class this morning and began a tree demo for them and finished it this afternoon. In this picture, the tree is green, turning to red, so a little more complicated than Monday’s. I decided to begin with red violets, dark purples and greens. I used warm greens under the yellow tree to the right. I worked up the main tree with green Giraults first, then went to softer reds to add over. I reserved the warmest for the central part of the tree. I think that the shadow on the road needs to be softened. I really liked the way the fence and the road lead the eye into the picture.
Country Road Near Sugar Loaf, 12 x 16, UART 400