Autumn Shadows, 16″ x 20″, pastelbord
Charcoal and water lay-in
Hard pastel and alcohot underpainting
Today I did a demo for my Wednesday class. We discussed shadows briefly, and then discussed this painting, which is certainly all about the shadows. I went for a drive in Montgomery County yesterday and got several shots that I liked, but was really taken with this one. If it looks familiar, it’s the same group of trees that I painted in the spring for the paintings called “Spring Apples”. I was particularly taken with the bright green grass with wavy fence shadows, and the brightness of the leaves against the more subdued background trees. It was a beautiful, sun-filled day and I wanted to say that in the picture.
I began by using water-soluble graphite and charcoal on a 16 x 20 white pastelbord. As I have in the past, I chose to use a bright yellow green under the sky and I allowed some of it to show through. It provides such a sense of light! I used some blue violet in the upper center, then greenish aquas in the sky to the left. The bottom of the sky at left is my favorite Ludwig yellow. I began with the distant trees and the field, which I toned down with pink. I liked having some of the orangy earth showing through as it ties to the oranges in the trees. I began the distant trees on the right with greens in the underpainting so that I wouldn’t have to cover them up. The distant trees were done quickly and lightly with various greens and violets. The foreground leaves were done with soft Schminckes and Great Americans, hitting the pastels against the board to create marks.
The distant path and shadows gave me some problems and i kept changing the value and the size of the shadow until I was happy with it. I began the dark shadows with a Unison dark violet and dark green, then brushed some lighter green over. In the left foreground, I added some warm brown to the shadow to give it more depth.
I was concerned about having two groups of orange leaves and liked the painting much better when I added leaves over the distant path and in the upper center.
This painting was more difficult than Monday’s, but having painted the subject before (although at a completely different time of year!), I felt like I had an idea of where to begin and how to make it work.
Long Shadows, 12 x 16, UART 400
Today I did a second demo for my Monday class. I gave a brief lecture at the beginning on the different types of shadows: cast, half, and occulsion. All are found in this image (sort of!), but the cast shadows are the main story. This is another painting from France. The morning light there was truly amazing and I’ll be doing another demo on Wed. based on a similar subject. For this picture, I decided that the color scheme would be orange, violet and green. The photo was primarily orange and green but I wanted the violets to balance the warmth. I began with a relatively cool underpainting of greens and violets, with orange in the sky. I used a cool red under the oranges, violet under the shadows, and cooler greens in the lit areas of the house. I really didn’t like the looks of this underpainting! But it made me want to work quickly to cover it.
For the sky, I used a light violet, then a very whitish violet, then light yellow to give it a bit of glow. I painted the large tree very quickly, trying to achieve the direction of the leaf clusters and adding in the trunks and branches at the end. The telephone pole was supposed to be an example of a “half shadow” –something that is partially in shadow and light. But I wasn’t sure that could be accurately achieved, so I just added light to the right sides in several places. The little building in the foreground was done very simply with a majenta on the left and red oranges on the right, and a cool violet on the top. The shadows were a bit more troublesome, trying to get the color right. I started with a blue green, but didn’t like it and added violet, then green, then –who knows what! They got better when I added the orange grasses over them.
This demo took 1 1/2 hours, followed by critique and discussion and a few changes. Working quickly allowed me to keep the painting fresh and not overworked and I was pretty happy with it. By the way, the occlusion shadows are the dark shadows within the trees, just in case you didn’t know!
Pastel applications before reds were added
Red Emerging, 16″ x 12″, mounted Pastel Premiere
It’s a very busy month of October, as it always seems to be. But I had time over the past couple of days to do a painting from our trip to Vermont. It’s really interesting that I was so happy to have sunny weather most of the time, but the best pictures came from the day with fog and no sun! We drove to the top of Mt. Ascutney, which was completely enveloped in fog. As we were starting to drive down, I saw this red maple and stopped to get some photos. I loved the way the fog was enveloping the top of the trees, but the reds at lower right were quite vibrant. I knew right away that I would want to do a painting of this.
I took advantage of a mounted 12 x 16 sheet of white Pastel Premiere that Robert from French Canvas sent to me as a test. I had asked him if he would mount this surface, in addition to the UART. I like his panels very much and find that they don’t warp like others have. (These are the “True Grit” pastel panels). One of the advantages of having a mounted board was being able to do a watercolor underpainting. Given the lack of distinction in the picture, watercolor was a great way to start. I’ve used it on unmounted premiere and it buckles, so I won’t do it again.
The painting posed some challenges. Compositionally, it is almost divided in half. I tried to remedy this by adding a fainter red to the lower left side behind the birches. I think that this helps carry the color around the picture (there wasn’t any red there). When I first added the birch trees, they were fairly bright, as you can see in the half-painted picture. I needed to push them back so that the reds on the right would be the clear focus of the picture. I found the perfect color in one of the Blue Earth grayed turquoise pastels.
I was also worried about painting in the greens and putting the reds on over them, but it was actually quite easy and it kept the reds from being too much. Since they are in fog, they aren’t supposed to be really bright. I also used softer pastels, mainly Schminckes for the brightest pieces, along with Ludwigs and Girault. The grayed Blue Earth quinacrodone red were also very useful. For the background trees and foreground, I used various greens, Ludwig “eggplant” and lighter colors, but kept the values fairly close. I changed the rocks at lower left from the original start to have three and trying to position them in an interesting way.
I really enjoyed doing this painting. It wasn’t about drawing but about “painting”!