Friday, January 13, 2017

Embracing the Snowy Marsh

A few weeks ago I headed out to paint a quick study on location, and also gather some photos for studio work. The spot was Sawyer Park along the Deschutes River here in Bend, OR where I live. There was snow on the ground, some good late afternoon light (if I got there early enough), and this location had some great views of the river and interesting rock formations, which I knew would be nicely snow covered.

Because of a sore back that day, I didn’t want to carry my gear too far, so I painted a view near the parking lot that I normally passed right by on previous visits. The sun was already going down too fast by the time I was packing up, so I didn’t have time to get to the better views of the river and rocks for photos. But I noticed a marshy area also near the parking lot that caught my eye. 

Although the light was almost gone, the water was still capturing a glorious golden glow that contrasted vividly up against the snow that was now almost all in shadow. This created a beautiful contrast of warms against cools … in a slightly different way than when snow and water are lit more directly from the sun. I took lots of photos and knew I’d want to tackle at least a quick study back in my studio while the color temperature contrasts were still fresh in my memory.

6x8 pastel study

reference photo

Soon after I created the study, I dove right into a larger pastel piece. Although I liked the bold colors I used in the study, I thought they would be too intense in a larger format, and I also wanted to convey more of the fading light of that time of day, so I toned down the chroma of the vegetation in the larger piece.

Below are some progression shots and the finished painting based on the 6x8 study.

underpainting (alcohol wash over Nupastel block-in)

About 2/3 completed.

Faded Glory, pastel, 14x18

Then I had a request from one of my galleries for a pastel snow scene. I enjoyed working with the snowy marsh subject, and knew I had other reference photos with various compositions of the same area (and my pastels weren’t put away yet from the last painting!), so I moved right along with “Evening’s Sparkling Entrance” (shown below, with the reference photo, a preliminary stage and the finished piece).

reference photo

About 1/3 completed.

Evening's Sparkling Entrance, pastel, 11x14

So after completing a few pastel paintings of the snowy marsh, I did what I normally do when the subject matter intrigues me … I tried it in a different medium!

Below are a few progression shots for “Twilight’s Radiant Descent” (oil), which was from a similar view of the same spot as I used for "Faded Glory" but a different vantage point. (There's a moire pattern that unfortunately shows up in the photos of the preliminary stages.)


Early stage.

I thought it was almost completed here.

But as the painting was nearing completion, I wasn’t happy with the composition on this one. When I initially planned out my composition, I did have a concern that the grass in the water was too centered. Most of the value contrast would be below center, which I thought would offset it (but later decided that it didn't), and I initially liked the large shapes in the foreground contrasted with the smaller shapes in the background (but later decided the foreground shapes were too equal). I was working on a panel that could be trimmed, so I had the option to crop it to a better composition. I first cropped it on my phone's camera, and then decided to go for it. My 14x18 became a 12x16.

Twilight's Radiant Descent, oil, 12x16


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

Fresno, CA - 3-day PASTEL/OIL  workshop
February 9, 10 & 11, 2017 (Thurs/Fri/Sat)
A Sense of Place Art Gallery
2003 North Van Ness Blvd.
Fresno, CA  93704
Contact: Ginny Burdick,, 559-392-6775

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

Oregon City, OR - 3-day PASTEL/OIL workshop
May 19, 20& 21, 2017 (Fri/Sat/Sun)
"Meet & Greet" Thursday evening (5/18)
Carrie Moore Studios, Oregon City, OR
Contact: Carrie Moore,, 503-866-5507

Cumberland, MD - 1-day Plein Air workshop (all media/demo will be in oil)
June 25, 2017 (Sun)
Part of the Mountain Maryland Plein Air event happening June 19-24.
Contact: Chris Sloan,, 301-777-2787


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ONLINE CRITIQUES - Visit where I and other painting instructors give quick, affordable online critiques of your work.

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