Thursday, March 28, 2013

Going with the Flow

A Little River Music I, pastel, 8x10
We began a series on moving water in my pastel classes this week. I've been putting off teaching this topic, since I haven't painted very much of this subject matter in the past. But I decided it was time, and so I had to do a bit of homework before teaching this class. This involves pouring through every resource I have that would show great examples of artists who excel at painting this subject matter.

As I studied some worthy examples, I made two key observations of falling water:
1) The lightest value of the water is in the center of the waterfall area, where the mass of the water is most concentrated. The thinner areas, especially where some of the rock/ground from behind shows through, are slightly darker in value, although in some areas, this value shift is very slight...but important to capture!
2) The color temperature is warmest in that same area where the water is lightest in value. This is because the water is the most reflective of sunlight where it's most concentrated. The thinner areas surrounding the more concentrated part are cooler. Just as with snow, a combination of warms and cools is necessary to convey the water's reflective quality.

Also regarding the mix of warms and cools, darker versions of the colors already used in the water can then be used in the darker rocks in order to harmonize your color. The sections of the rocks catching direct sunlight reflect warmer light, and areas facing away are cooler in temperature.

Below are a few progression shots from my demo of "A Little River Music I," my demo from Wednesday's class. I began with a mostly monochromatic underpainting, but added a few colors chosen based on ultimate placement of warms and cools.

Shown below is "round two" of this class, done for my Thursday class. I decided to change up a the color palette a bit by adding some warmer blues and a touch of orange into the mix.

A Little River Music II, pastel, 8x10

Monday, March 25, 2013

Workshop Schedule Update

Among the Birch Trees, pastel, 12x9 

I've just finalized details on some upcoming workshops I'm teaching. Following directly below are my  pastel workshops. The workshops listed at the bottom focus on composition and are not medium specific. 

Pastel Workshops:

"Interpreting the Landscape in Pastel" - Move out of the copying mode and into the interpretive mode! Workshop exercises will address selecting a color palette, developing a strong composition and simplifying busy subject matter. Each day begins with a demonstration and then plenty of individual help at the easel for the remainder of the day.

Leland, Michigan - 2-day workshop
Leelanau Community Cultural Center at The Old Art Building
111 S. Main Street

Leland, MI 49654
August 19 & 20, 2013 (Mon/Tues)
$195 members
To register, call 231-256-2131 or email

Northern Wisconsin - 4-day workshop
Dillman's Art Workshop Retreat
3305 Sand Lake Lodge Lane
Lac du Flambeau, WI 54538
This is a resort facility where you can also enjoy gorgeous scenery, boat rides on the lake and other outdoor recreation right there where the workshop takes place. Workshop fee also includes a welcome reception the evening of Sept. 22. Affordable accommodations in the resort are available through Dillman's. 
Sept. 23 - 26, 2013
Call 715-588-3143 for more information or register online at

Charlotte, North Carolina - 4-day workshop
Piedmont Pastel Society
McDowell Arts Center
Mathews, NC
Nov. 4 - 7, 2013
$325/members; $351/nonmembers
Register online at

Littleton, Colorado - 3-day workshop
Terry Ludwig Studios

8113 W. Brandon Dr.
Littleton, CO 80125
Jan. 24, 25 & 26, 2014
For questions and to register, contact Barbara directly at

Other Workshops:

"Composition Boot Camp" -  Push yourself beyond the "typical" composition. Bring your own landscape photos that you normally work from and we'll put them through an intensive composition workout. Through numerous quick studies, you'll move, stretch, crop and basically push the limits of basic landscape subject matter and get that "wow" factor into your compositions. Oil/acrylic painters and pastel artists who work in a representational style and are already familiar with their medium are welcome.

Atlanta, Georgia - 1-day workshop
Spruill Center for the Arts
5339 Chamblee Dunwoody Rd.
Atlanta, GA 30338

Sat., July 27, 2013, 10 - 5
To register call 770-394-3447 or visit

Dahlonega, Georgia - 2-day workshop
The Art Loft
Sept. 5 & 6 (Thurs/Fri), 2013
To register, visit

Please email me at if you have questions about any of these workshops.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Shadows and Stuff, Part 2

The Mountains Are Calling, pastel, 10x8

This week I continued with the shadow series in my pastel classes. The Mountains Are Calling was my demo from my Wednesday class.

The shadows in this piece travel across three quarters of the painting, providing good opportunity to notice how the edges of shadows become softer as they travel away from the object casting them. They also become lighter in value as they travel away. When working from photos, shadows also generally need to be lightened overall. Photos tend to make the shadow values the same as the object casting them, when, in reality, they're slightly lighter (even at the darkest/closest part) than the object.

Below is the reference photo for comparison...

For a better composition, and to lengthen/increase the drama of the shadows, I raised the area where the shadows meet the trees.

Following are a few progression shots. It was important to block in the shadows with VERY loose, soft edges. I find it easier to sharpen the few edges closest to the trees later in the process than it is to soften edges that were rendered too stiff in the early stages. The first one is just after the alcohol wash over a few Nupastel/Rembrandt pastels.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Shadows and Stuff

The Farm at the End of the Road, pastel, 8x10

In my morning classes this week we started a series on shadows. For this week's subject matter, we concentrated on making the shadows the focal point rather than other elements within the landscape that are typically chosen as focal points (i.e., barn, path, trees). In this painting, the viewer's eye is draw in by the shadows and led to the barn in the distance as a secondary focal point.

Since shadows have soft edges, I couldn't use hard edges as a method to draw the viewer's eye, which is one way an artist can do this. Instead, I had to use something else from my "artistic bag of tricks." In this case, I used vibrant color in the shadows and in the colors around the shadows.

Below are a few progression shots of "The Farm at the End of the Road." And following below that are some demo shots from my Tuesday night class this past week.

In my Tuesday night class, we did "The Five-shape Landscape" exercise, (which you can read more about in recent previous posts) in which we began the painting with five distinct abstract shapes. Below are some progression shots from this demo...

Winter Trees Waiting, pastel, 8x10

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Elaborating on Dull, Winter Colors

Almost to the Top, pastel, 8x10
This week in my classes we worked with grey winter landscapes (not snow scenes) and focused on taking what little color we had to work with, and elaborating. Many people find it odd that the gray, winter landscape is often my favorite type of landscape to work with. I find it to be a fun challenge to take those grays and push a little extra color out of whatever small amount of color I find present.  I basically elaborate on the faint color that's there.

I start by choosing an initial color palette of the grayed colors that I see. Then I found slightly more saturated hues of those colors and place them in key areas of the painting where I want to viewer's eye to linger. I'm still primarily using the local color, but just squeezing a bit more vibrancy out of it.

Since I had a couple of similar reference photos of the same landscape, I painted a different demo for each class this week. (I usually use the same photo for both classes, since my students can opt to attend either day, and I like to keep the topic exactly the same for each class.)

Above is my demo from my Thursday class. Below is Wednesday's demo.

Perfect Day for a Hike, pastel, 8x10

Following below are a couple of progression shots of each. For each, I used an underpainting of just three colors and an alcohol wash. The warm hue used in the underpainting helped to balance the majority of cools used in the color palette.