|Morning Thaw, pastel, 20" x 16"|
For many of my paintings lately, I enjoy using a very loose alcohol wash for my underpainting. Since it's been my goal to develop a looser style, I find that this keeps me from getting bogged down in details too soon. I use a wide brush for my underpainting, so details are impossible to fuss with at this beginning stage. In the underpainting (top), I'm concerned with large shapes and dark/light values.
I find the middle stage the most difficult. This is where lots of decisions need to be made as I start breaking down the larger shapes into smaller shapes. I still often get hung up in too many details here. On this painting I focused on emphasizing the changes in value, but needed to be sure the value changes in the foreground stayed very subtle...a challenge, since most landscapes typcially have high contrast in the foregound. The dramatic morning light hitting the top of the barn and trees in this scene put a spin on this "rule of thumb." Except for the dark icy/water patches on the road, there's very little range in value in the foreground here. It's actually the road that attracted me to paint this scene, so I wanted to be sure to capture that, and I worked very slowly on that part of the painting.
In the end, I was happy with the finished piece, although it's a bit tighter than I had envisioned. I almost like the middle stage better and wish I stopped sooner!