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
I love old growth forests and wish there were more of them left around and these two pine trees seem like they might be part of one such forest which is almost perceivable in the background through the mist. I used cool tones of greens, violets, blues and grays to capture the peaceful, lush , wet and somewhat haunting atmospheric mood of this scene. I used Terry Ludwig and Unison pastels on Wallis Pro White Pastel Paper.
Pine’s In the Mist, Pastel on Pastel Paper, 12×18″
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″
Ever since childhood, Wales UK has always held a certain appeal to me, something that I can’t easily explain but it’s always been there nevertheless. My mother’s family may have come from there originally but my own research points more in the direction of Yorkshire, England than Wales but the family migrated to Canada back in the colonial days so the history has probably gotten a little muddled. I watched BBC video about the old Megalithic standing stones of the UK and when the host started talking about the Welsh history and showing the exceptionally hauntingly beautiful and lonely landscape I knew I had to get a few stills and work from those.
This painting was based on Cerrig Duon in mid Wales and I left the standing stones out since I was more interested in capturing the feeling of the landscape and the beautiful sky at sunrise. Adding the rainfall over the hills was artistic license at work since I don’t believe that it was raining in the documentary; however, I’ve heard that it rains a good deal in that part of the UK so I’m probably not far from the truth. I used a fairly cool and low-key value system in the hopes of capturing the eerie feeling that I was picking up from the video. One day I’ll have to visit this place!
Rain Along the Hills at Sunrise, 12 x 18”, Soft Pastel on Wallis Pro White Paper
Growing orchids happens to be one of my favorite past-times so when I picked up painting again; slipper orchids where one of my first subjects. Back then I mostly used colored pencil but when bad shoulder problems started to manifest I knew it was time to find another medium. Now I work primarily with soft pastel since it’s the most direct of mediums that requires less preparation and cleanup than oil paint which is my other preferred medium especially for larger landscapes.
Phragmipedium Geralda was my first orchid and has been with me the longest and has to be one of the easiest to grow so naturally it had to be one of the first orchids that I had to complete in pastel. Actually this is the second orchid portrait since I did complete a small portrait of the Star of Bethlehem orchid last year on Ampersand Pastelbord; however, I do seem to prefer the Wallis Professional White paper over the Pastelbord since it holds more pastel and is less likely to smudge while I’m working with it thereby making details easier to render. I’m also finding that the Wallis paper works wonderfully to create a soft and airy quality that I just couldn’t achieve in colored pencil. I used my usual Terry Ludwig, Unison and Faber Castell pastel pencils.
A Portrait of Phragmipedium Geralda, 18×12″ Pastel on Wallis Paper
Strangely I started this composition in oil pastel last fall and didn’t finish it since I didn’t like the paper; I also found that I didn’t find oil pastel suitable for landscape painting since the colours aren’t subtle enough. I had put it down and forgot all about it until I took a minute to look through my reference images for autumn themed paintings, and decided to use the old reference for a new soft pastel.
The colours don’t seem to be as bright this year, probably due to the dry summer, so I decided to tone the colours down in this one and make is more impressionistic. It seems that every landscape artist needs to attempt birch trees since they have such lovely bark although they aren’t my personal favorite. I hope that I managed to create a bit of depth in this painting which is something that can be difficult to do with woodland compositions; I also focused on conveying life energy and movement by using the pastel marks to create harmony with an almost musical quality.
I also used the white Wallis Professional paper which is indeed wonderful but not a toothy as the Belgium Mist and neither is as thick making it more likely to tear if you aren’t careful when removing the tape from the edges.
Autumn Birch Walk
Soft Pastel on Wallis Paper 12×18″
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.
The Green Walk, Soft Pastel on Wallis Paper, 18×12”
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 12×18″ Pastel on Wallis Paper
I’ll post my newer work over the next couple weeks.
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:
The Cropped Version:
Grand River Cropped
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.
One of those ideal spring days arrived and I had the opportunity to take several photographs of the Grand River. After sorting through my less than wonderful assortment of pictures I decided to settle on one in particular showing the bridge and a few buildings along the opposite shore. I played around with the composition and finally decided that I didn’t want any man-made structures involved so this doesn’t act as a correct interpretation of the local, but I prefer my work to have little or no presence of human habitation. However, mostly I just liked the simplified version, the bridge and buildings just made things too busy.
The original image:
Springtime Along the Grand River