Thursday, November 17, 2016

Exploring a Landscape Subject

Early on in my painting journey, I would never consider painting a subject more than once. But these days I spend quite a bit of time exploring multiple studies of a particular subject. Since I’m not trying to replicate my subject, I’m instead searching for a way to visually interpret what's special about it. And sometimes it takes some searching to find how I want to do that.

Black Butte Ranch Aspens, 8x10, oil

I painted “Black Butte Ranch Aspens” on location recently. Although there was beautiful subject matter everywhere I looked, I wanted to focus on the brilliant light on the sides of the Aspen trees. I wasn’t too sure about the composition I was attempting as I was painting it—with the trees on the right ending almost at the center—but I wanted to paint just a portion of the tree mass since I knew the light would change quickly, and I took my best shot at this type of composition.

Last Glimpse of Autumn, 12x16, pastel

Back in the studio, I wanted to include more of the tree mass in the composition, so I backed up my view, which is more like how I photographed this spot.

reference photo

After looking at the 12x16 version, I was okay with it, but I didn’t think it captured the light on the Aspen tree trunks like I had wanted. It seemed that the light and shadow on the foreground grass had stolen some attention from the tree trunks.  So I decided to zoom back in on the composition—not as much as the plein air study, but a little closer so that it better featured the light on the trunk trunks. I also pulled the base of the trees down to lengthen the tree trunks, and created more “breathing space” in the sky on the left between the tree foliage at the top and the distant mountain by reducing the size of the mountain. 

In all three versions I exaggerated the size of the mountain to create additional depth. The mountain is indeed there in the photo, but barely visible.  When I was there painting my plein air study, I noticed that the mountain was higher further to the left of the view I was painting, and I loved the contrast against the other elements in the landscape, so I moved it into my composition.

Autumn's Fade at Black Butte Ranch, pastel, 14x18

I’ll look at my third version for a while and decide if I might want to explore it some more in oil. I find that moving back and forth between oil and pastel helps keep the exploring process interesting!

Stay tuned for a little special surprise I have planned for my blog readers on Saturday, November 26th ... Small Business Saturday!


Bend, OR - 3-day PASTEL/OIL workshop
January 21, 22 &23, 2017 (Sat/Sun/Mon)
SageBrushers Art Society
117 SW Roosevelt Ave., Bend, OR  97702
Contact: Barbara Jaenicke,

Redondo Beach, CA - 3-day PASTEL workshop
April 20, 21 & 22, 2017 
Pastel Society of Southern California
Contact: Arturo Fribourg,
$350 (tentative price, may change slightly)

San Diego, CA - Plein Air Convention
April 24 - 28, 2017
Faculty/Pastel demonstrator
Exact day/time of demo TDB. Must be registered for convention to attend.

Oregon City, OR - 3-day PASTEL/OIL workshop
May 19, 20 & 21, 2017 (Fri/Sat/Sun), with a "meet & greet" Thursday evening before the workshop
Carrie Moore Studios, Oregon City, OR
Contact: Carrie Moore,, 503-866-5507

For full schedule, go to


  1. Hi Barbara
    I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy reading your blog. I don't often comment, so I just wanted to take a moment to let you know that I very much appreciate the effort you put into writing it. I enjoy reading about:
    - your process
    - when you discuss specific paintings: WHAT changes you make to the composition - and, importantly, WHY you are making those changes (this blog is a great example)
    - what works, and what doesn't work (your recent blog post showing good and 'bad' photos is a great example)
    - the materials you use
    You have a talent for putting your thoughts into writing, and this blog is the perfect mechanism for communicating those thoughts.

    1. Thanks so much for this thoughtful comment, Chris. Sorry I'm just now seeing it. So glad to hear this great feedback!