There is a certain enchanting beauty about a heavy snowfall on evergreens at the end of a winter’s day. I wanted to capture the peaceful quality of a northern Canadian landscape since this is where I’m from and we certainly have had a peaceful and long winter this year, which has brought several inches of snow although I am getting rather tired of the snow at this point in the year. This will probably be the last snow painting that I depict for a bit and plan on painting other subjects including a few spring landscapes if I can find the proper references or the wherewithal to paint.
I rarely talk about the actual application of the pastel however it might be interesting to some so…Many pastelists like to use harder pastels in the beginning and layer the softer ones over top however I don’t really like the hard pastel I have well enough to use them so I move straight to the Girault which are medium hard to the really soft one’s like Ludwig and Unison and keep layering until I either achieve what I want or I run out of layering surface. I don’t bother with an underpainting or anything fancy. It’s better to concentrate on things I need to work on improving such as the values changes, composition and color application.
Early on a Winter’s Evening
It’s the time of year when winter seems to be lessening it’s grip on this part of the world and the fluctuations of temperature are prominent and the atmosphere seems to soften and grow a little less frosty. I notice the soft apricot glow of the morning sunrise and wanted to capture that quality in the winter painting. I also like how the tree creates a nicely arching habit which creates an almost circular movement around the piece. I was also careful to simplify the color scheme to capture the subtle tonal value changes often seen in the winter months along with the soft light of early morning. This work is also about forms and how they relate to one another to create a sense of drama. I used artist quality pastels including Unison, Terry Ludwig and Girault on acid free Wallis Pastel Paper.
It Was a Cold Winter Morning, Pastel on Pastel Paper, 12×18″
I live near a wetlands area connected to the river system and a large lake so there are many different forms of interesting wildlife in this area too that this precious habitat supports. I wanted to capture the essence of this natural setting in one of my few wetland paintings and the first one that I have done of this type of landscape in the winter season. In fact I seem to be exploring the theme of water and wetlands in the winter season just lately and have completed three pastel paintings describing this type of habitat in the snow.
Winter’s Warmth Along a Marsh, Pastel and Pastel Paper, 12×18″
A Winter’s Evening, soft pastel on paper, 9×12″
I’ve been concentrating on painting a few winter scenes lately since we have a white winter this year like we are supposed to here in Canada and it has put me in the mood to depict this type of scenery. I wanted to capture a scene at the end of a winter day so there are some warm tones in the snow which are being cast by the setting sun. I wasn’t happy with the finished painting and neither was I happy with the photograph and think that I need a new camera. I don’t like the gold light higher up behind the trees either. I also think that there should be more violet and blue shadows in the foreground to the right side of the picture. That bright blue color in the tree’s might be a little intense too. Maybe continue the snow covered shrubbery to the bottom of the painting on the left side.
I made a few changes as described and I think that this work has improved. I also was careful to adjust the photo on the computer so the contrast wasn’t as sharp and more like the actual painting. I also tried to adjust the photo so the colors were more like the actual painting although the colors are a little too soft perhaps.
Before the Changes
I was thinking about water, wind and the weather and how it would be great fun to go see the ocean and see how it spoke to me. I liked the silvery morning light and the pink and violet clouds in the sky and the contrast between the rocks and the light on the water. The water seemed fairly calm so I decided to keep the marks smooth and I blended the colors a lot and I tried to capture the movement of the water around the rocks in the foreground. I used the same Terry Ludwig, Unison and Girault Pastel combination I always use on Wallis Pro White Paper.
Silver Light on the Sea, soft pastel on paper, 12×18″
After creating some landscaping paintings of brightly colored trees I decided to paint a woodland scene with softer and more neutral gray colors. I wanted to capture the cool and tranquil atmosphere of the interior of the woodland in the beginning of autumn. I added a touch of warm orange to add a little color to the scene as well. I used artist quality pastels by Terry Ludwig and Unison on acid free pastel paper by Wallis.
Greywood by Twilight, Pastel on Pastel Paper, 12×18″
I like the contorted shape of this tree and the layers of bright red foliage which really captures the attention and reminds me of my Japanese Maples in the autumn which is a theme I have explored recently. I especially like the warm reds and purples in the cooler months. I also used cooler blues and greens with the warm reds to help balance the colors and make them less dominant and create harmony. I once again used high quality pastels including Terry Ludwig and Unison on Wallis Pro White Pastel Paper which is a high quality paper as well.
Impression of a Red Maple, Pastel on Pastel Paper, 9×12″
I have discovered that I like working on small seascapes and enjoy the simple, smooth strokes and planes of color involved with the subject matter instead of the more highly textured and detailed forest painting that I normally create. I really like the soft pink in the colours and the soft focus of this painting as well. I used my favourite artist quality pastels mainly Unison and Terry Ludwig pastels on Wallis Pro White Pastel paper which as a sanded surface so that it can hold the pastel dust better and prevent it from falling off.
Sunrise Over the Lake, Soft Pastel on Pastel Paper, 9×12″
I decided to do something a little different than what I’ve done before and started a small painting of the night sky and the Milky Way Galaxy using some violets and pinks and lots of dark pastels. It was interesting and somewhat tedious to depict all the stars however I think it passes as a starry night sky. There is a certain enchantment in the night sky and I’ve always found pictures of galaxies and nebula to be beautiful, should try another one of these sometime. Terry Ludwig and Unison Pastels on Wallis Pro White Paper and it is a 9×12”.
Milky Way Sky, Pastel on Pastel Paper, 9×12″
I’ve been away from my blog most of the winter but I’ve been busy painting in both oil and pastel and finally had a somewhat decent and sunny day when I could photograph a couple of my painting. It’s been a frustrating winter for me artistically and physically since I’ve been unwell on and off for much of it and found myself in a creative rut where everything that I did was less than satisfactory; however, I did manage to complete one landscape painting that I’m mostly happy with, called Autumn Woodland Stream.
This painting is composed from a couple reference pictures that I found of the Bruce Trail near Hamilton, Ontario. I used to have the odd opportunity to hike along the beautiful woodland along the Niagara Escarpment and have happy memories of those years during my 20s. I did a few value studies and compositional sketches before starting the first block in. All in all there are probably 3-5 layers of oil paint since I used thinner transparent colours to create what I hope is an interesting surface for the painting, than I added details in key areas where I want the viewer’s eye to travel. I also created several visual pathways using value changes and hopefully well placed tree branches to create a semi dramatic atmosphere in an otherwise quiet woodlot. I hope that I’ve managed to capture a sense of the sacredness of the forest, the water and all its creatures.
For all those pigment fanatics, I used W&N artist’s Titanium white, yellow ocher, cadmium orange, cerulean blue, cobalt blue, burnt sienna and Old Holland, Zinc White, Persian red and French Ultramarine Blue Light Extra (which is great for those darker violets). I’ve starting painting a few studies using pigments by Blockx, Michael Harding and Old Holland and will probably leave W&N behind since the higher quality paint have a much better pigment load resulting in better luminosity and intensity then the cheaper pigments. The Michael Harding Cobalt blue and Blockx Yellow Ocher are both especially nice, I will be trying more pigments by these two companies in the future. And Old Holland can’t be beat, I adore their FUB and Red Iron Oxide (Persian/Indian Red), together they create a lovely natural mauve, you just need to be careful that you don’t blow the blue out of the water with the super dense Persian red.
For some reason the photo seems to be flattening the composition; in reality, the actual painting seems to have more depth but at least the colors are more or less correct. Camera + painting = frustration.
Autumn Woodland Stream, 16×25″, Oil on Canvas