It Was a Cold Winter Morning

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

It Was a Cold Winter Morning, Pastel on Pastel Paper, 12×18″

Early Spring Morn

It was time to paint a larger pastel landscape, in fact it’s probably the largest that I’ve done to date. With spring just around the corner it seemed time to create a pastel landscape based on my river/trees theme and I wanted to feature both deciduous and coniferous trees. The cooler pinks, violets, yellows and greens seem to be the best choice for a softer spring color selection. I also used low key values since the sun is just thinking of peeking over the trees on a cool overcast spring morning.

Early Spring Morn

Early Spring Morn, Pastel on Wallis Sanded Paper, 18×24″

This is the original picture; I decided that there was just too much water in the foreground and the composition was just too symmetrical so I cropped it:

Original Reference Photo

Original Reference Photo

I used Wallis Belgium Mist which certainly does take many layers of color providing a chance to create a rich and textured tapestry of color, something only the Belgium Mist will allow. I hope Kitty Wallis will continue to make this paper for years to come.

The original reference picture came from a collection of high quality photo’s that I downloaded from Johannes Vloothuis for a minimal fee of $20. He has over 700 pictures of various landscape scenes and buildings including scenes from Mexico and Cape Cod. Worth checking out especially if you’re as bad at finding pictures with a descent composition to work from as I am: http://www.improvemypaintings.com/Reference%20Photos.html

Curry’s Art Auction for Dystonia

I’m happy to announce that I have two pastel landscape paintings that have been included in Curry’s Charitable Art Auction benefiting Dystonia to be held at the Liberty Grand in Toronto on October 25, 2011.

Springtime Reflected

Springtime Reflected

Late Afternoon Along the Grand River

Late Afternoon Along the Grand River

The whole story can be read here:

http://www.mississauga.com/what%27s%20on/article/1219086–art-auction-celebrates-100-years

You can see the other excellent artists who have been selected here:

https://www.currys.com/generic.htm?ECINFO=AUCTIONPREVIEW1

As well as the online art gallery:

https://www.currys.com/generic.htm?ECINFO=ONLINEGALLERY

The Green Walk

I think it’s funny how artists always say that it’s bad to use too much green in landscape paintings and yet green is one of Nature’s dominate colors;  seemingly, the color of life. It’s is also one of my favorites (perhaps it’s the gardener in me) therefore I decided to break with conventional wisdom and paint a landscape using green as the dominate theme. Sometimes you just need to do things the way you want since art begins with the artists and it is an expression of those artistic desires. I worked from a picture that I had taken near the Grand River in late spring before the terribly dry summer really kicked in so perhaps this is an expression of what summer needed to be instead of what we got.

I used Terry Ludwig and Unison Pastel on Wallis Belgium Mist paper.

Click to Enlarge

The Green Walk, Soft Pastel on Wallis Paper, 18×12”

The Old River Tree

It’s been awhile since my last post I see…guess this means that it  has been summer break time…or at least that’s my excuse. However, I’ve been busy at the pastel easel and have completed some new work including this one.

We decided to stop along the Grand River in Cayuga, Ontario on our way back from delivering some work to the gallery, so I took the opportunity to snap a few shots of the river for reference images. I loved how the gnarled willow tree was growing over the river like an old woman stretching after waking from a long nap. The bark was deeply creviced and the leaves and branches allowed the light to travel through creating a lace-like appearance. The sky was partly overcast lending a silvery appearance to the still waters of the Grand which is something I hope that I’ve managed to capture in this painting.

I used mostly Ludwig’s with a few Unison’s on Belgium Mist Wallis paper. For the darker tree trunk and branches I  used the lovely warm brown pastel BE#6 that came with the Unisons Landscape Set of 72, it is the most wonderful rich velvety brown a pastel artist could ever want.

The Old River Tree

The Old River Tree 12×18″ Pastel on Wallis Paper

I’ll post my newer work over the next couple weeks.

Redwood’s Waterfall

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I love trees, the more majestic they are the better and it’s hard to come across a tree with more presence than a redwood. I few years ago we planted a dawn redwood in our backyard hoping to one day have a tree similar to the mighty redwoods out west. The first tree didn’t make it since a cat used the trunk as a scratching post thereby killing it. We planted another in its place which is growing along nicely. I found a few pictures of the second dawn redwood on my computer and I was inspired to paint a mature redwood forest and I searched through several reference photos’ before finding a few to use. So this painting was completed in memory of the beautiful young dawn redwood that just wasn’t to be.

You can also read more about Metasequoia glyptostroboides from Michael A. Dirr’s book Hardy Trees and Shrubs: An Illustrated Encyclopedia  Here

My painting:

Redwood's Waterfall

Redwood's Waterfall, Oil on Canvas, 18x26"

I tried to capture a sense of dampness and heaviness in the painting and perhaps a feeling of things lurking around the corner as is if the creatures of the forest have been frightened away by the viewer’s sudden appearance.  I’ve started the painting a couple months ago with the mass planning and compositional block-in before beginning to lay in the first layer of color. I then set it down for a few weeks and completed a few pastel paintings since they come along much more quickly than my oil paintings. When I returned to this work it was time to begin layering in the foliage and textures of the tree bark followed by the surface layers of the water and reflections. After looking at the work for a couple days, I made a couple changes in the focal area and layered in more cerulean blue to help capture the viewer’s interest, or at least cerulean blue always gets mine, I think it is one of the most beautiful colors an artist can have on their palette and it’s wonderful for mixing good clear earthy greens, especially when combined with yellow ochre.

I’m never completely happy with anything I paint, however, this one seems to have a certain presence about it that doesn’t always happen so this one gets a passing grade.

Late Afternoon at the Grand River

Another trip to the Grand River with my camera and several less than impressive photo’s later and I managed to get something I could crop into submission to create a somewhat decent reference photo.

The original picture:

Grand River, Dunnville, Ontario

Grand River

The Cropped Version:

Grand River, Dunnville, Ontario, Canada

Grand River Cropped

Soft Pastel Landscape, Grand River Ontario

Late Afternoon at the Grand River

And my final pastel painting. I changed the basic shapes of the shrubs to make them more abstract and I also simplified the trees so it was a little less busy and moved the shore line to make the line more interesting and musical.  Once happy with the layout, I sketched the landscape in with hard pastels/pencils then blocked in the basic masses, followed by the more time consuming details.  My materials included Faber-Castel Pastel Pencils, Nu-Pastels (hard), Unison and Terry Ludwig Soft Pastels on Wallis paper which has become my favourite pastel surface.

Springtime Reflected

Somehow this painting started out as an autumn scene and transformed itself into a spring scene, not sure how that happened, perhaps it had something to do with the arrival of season after a very long winter.
I worked on a new surface wanting to experiment with something a little different and I do like how the colors are more brilliant and striking then on the colored surfaces. I had started another pastel on an Ampersand Pastelbord and ended up washing it off and repriming it with several layers of Golden Fine Pumice Gel.  Another time I would use a coarse ground for soft pastel since this would allow for more layers of the pastel and it would be more agreeable with my soft Ludwig’s.
The trees and shrubs remind me of forsythia, purple smoke brushes and apple or pear trees in bloom, which are species I saw frequently in the horticulture business. I also used the beautiful Unison turquoise pastels in the sky along with a very pale and cooler Ludwig turquoise in the water. The colors in water should always be cooler than those on land, one of the ways you can separate land from water.