Thursday, July 11, 2013

Up Close & Personal

Cattails, pastel, 8x10

I started a new series in my classes this week that will focus on zooming in on a small area of the landscape.

Often with landscape painting, we want to depict distance, sometimes even miles and miles, going as far as the eye can see. And sometimes we paint a large, vast area simply because we want to include a variety of elements in order to capture interesting contrasts of colors and textures. But some of the most beautiful paintings zero in on just a tiny snippet of the landscape...maybe just a few feet (or even less) of distance, creating unique compositions with a close-up view of items we don't normally pay much attention to.

As with any painting, starting with large abstract shapes is key. Although when zooming in close to your subject, it becomes even more tempting to go after small details too soon. With my subject matter being thousands of thin, wispy blades of tall grass, I knew that I had to ignore detail completely in the initial stages and instead establish my abstract shapes.

I must say that my underpainting isn't one of my more attractive examples, but I did it quickly and it did the job I needed it to do. With such a thick mass of grass to work with, I wanted to get my darks in first and work my lighter and brighter values over top. In the underpainting, I also snuck in some subtle warm hues where I knew I'd need them, such as in the grass (above the reflections in the water) and the blue area of the water.

The challenge of this painting was to keep the rendering of the grass as simplified as possible as it progressed, but not lose sight of the overall shape of the grass formation.

reference photo

 "Cattails" is my demo from my Thursday class.


  1. Love it! Beautiful. Thanks for sharing your process. Very interesting and helpful.

  2. Ahhhhh, so nice, barbara. Thanks so much, too, for posting your source photo. That really enhances the tutorial!

    1. Thanks, Vicki! Yes, I agree, sometimes seeing the photo helps to know how the subject matter was interpretted.

  3. Really beautiful, Barbara! Very helpful too - thank you!