Monday, January 18, 2010

Areal View Beginning

This is an aerial view of a house in Iowa. I liked the viewpoint and the strong values. I got permission from the photographer to use this photo. I usually like to work from my own photos, but always ask permission when working from someone else’s. When planning my painting I decided to leave certain things exact; the placement of the buildings and most of the trees, but decided to leave out a few of them and tilt the whole image to the right because I thought it made the composition more interesting.
Working on a piece of Richeson 300# watercolor paper (it has a soft, smooth surface – a lot of tooth, but not a lot of texture), I sketched basic shapes and composition with a soft, easy to erase pencil. This is the foundation of the painting and making proportions correct is very important. I drew the house on the right and erased it at least three times before I felt it was just right. The angle of all three structures must line up. I didn’t want to make basic structure changes once I had added the pastels. I started adding pastel to the background moving down and to the right. I work this way for practical reasons. I’m right-handed and it keeps me from smearing up the parts of the pastel already worked on.

Areal view middle steps

Added more colors – various greens and yellows for yard, reds and white for roof and deep red and green for shadows on roof. Notice the values are strong. Used very dark and very light pastels to show lights and darks. Used blending stubs to get details around windows and front of house and a piece of a soft, flannel shirt to blend the bigger areas of grass.
Continued along painting buildings and trees starting with darks then adding lights. Notice trees are different greens – fir trees are more bluish, taller trees have more yellows. Spread greens on grass including shadows, making sure the strokes go in the same direction except for ‘mowing’ lines and uneven patches.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Worked background to foreground – so that I was physically putting things in the proper order – I painted the red roof that connects the two buildings even though it will mostly not be seen once I add the big tree in the foreground – this is because it’s realistic to see a little bit of the buildings through the trees. Good quality pastels (I used Unison) are very forgiving and should cover colors underneath each other – even very light over very dark.
Finished details on house, like the variance of color and value in windows and the tiny bushes and flowers in front of house. Painted trees in foreground. Checked painting from a distance and made sure light source is correct – all shadows on grass and roofs are going the same direction. I decided to sign the painting in the lower left corner because it was the emptiest space and the subtle touch of a darker green helps balance the painting.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pan Pastel Trees

I took two photos that my daughter, Helen took when she was out in Portland. One is a photo of a bridge and a large, possibly Douglas fir tree, surrounded by foliage. The other a path leading to a wooded area. I combined them because I didn’t like the ‘straight on’ angle of the bridge and I liked the path.

Working on a piece of 11” x 14” white Pastelmat paper I took one of the large, oval applicators and blended Ultramarine Blue Tint, Pthalo Blue Tint, and Titanium White for the sky. This way it will be down already and show through the trees. Pan Pastels, like other pastels are very forgiving and work well right on top of each other. I work background to foreground, which will physically make sense as the pastels will layer over each other.
Using Neutral Grey and the rectangle tool I sketched in the basic composition moving the tree just slightly so it’s not in the exact center of the page. To further help the composition I put the path in the foreground in place of the bridge in the original photo.
Using Raw Umber Shade with the rectangle tool I added the most obvious tree trunks in the background. Then using the round tool and Chromium Oxide Green X-Dark I put in the darkest part of the foliage and moved just a little bit into the foreground. If you aren’t sure which areas are darkest squint your eyes and it will help you see the different values. Start with bigger shapes and don’t worry about individual leaves or pine needles at this point. Leaving them fuzzy and not detailed will help pull them back so the viewer knows they’re far away.
Starting at the top and going dark to light I added more branches using different greens, Chromium Oxide Green Shade, Hanasa Yellow X-Dark, Bright Yellow Green Shade, Permanent Green Shade and then Bright Yellow Green, Permanent Green Tint, and Chromium Oxide Green Tint.
I added bigger areas to fill in the background, more of all colors. I added more definition on the tiny pine branches hanging down on the top of the page.
Using a medium sized hard edged sponge tool and Raw Umber Tint I made vertical strokes on the whole tree, cleaning off the sponge on plain paper when some of the green from the background mixed in. The reason I’m starting with the lightest color here is that the bark is the lightest and the bumps protruding out have strong shadows. I also added the same base color to the path in the foreground. I did put less of the light color in the bottom left part of the tree so the dark will go over it more easily.
Starting with Dark Brown, Burnt Sienna X-Dark, and Raw Umber Shade I put in the shadows using a pointed foam tool. The pointed edge helped me create strong edges for irregular bark.
Using Black, Titanium White, and a bit of Burnt Sienna I completed the large fir tree. I used lighter lights, and darker darks to match the strong light source in the photo of the path and to make the tree stronger and the obvious focal point. I smoothed it out to make it contrast even more from the busy foliage around it. I completed the foreground blending the two photos using Bright Yellow primarily on the left. The shadows from the foliage on the right are Neutral Grey S/Shade, Red Iron Oxide X-Dark and a little bit of black – Permanent Red for the flowers.