How to Paint in Pastel Beside an Arroyo

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“Arroyo Del Valle”, pastel, 11×14

Before I set out to paint on location beside an arroyo, I packed all the necessary items. First, I chose mounted UArt 400 as my support and cut a piece of glassine to fit the 11×14 pastel paper and placed it in an envelope inside my messenger bag. Also in the bag I packed my assortment of pastel in my Heilman Box, my zipper kit of tools, a small bottle of denatured alcohol, paper towels, and some water.

 

 


I found a place to paint at at Sycamore Grove Park located on Arroyo Road in Livermore which is close to home. Initially, I was drawn to some wild flowers by a stream, but there was a noisy group of school kids on a nature walk, so I moved to a woodland area beside the arroyo.

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Start of “Arroyo Del Valle”

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Easel on site at “Arroyo Del Valle”

After blocking in the basic elements of the scene as trees, stream, plants, and undergrowth, I washed it down with alcohol which adds color, but does not use up any of the tooth of the paper. I continued to add color while remembering to use a range of light, middle, and dark values of each hue. It was challenging to represent the tangled web of branches and trees. Since this was a plein air piece, I simplified the stream by omitting a few of the rocks. Although the color of the water was quite a dull olive green, I enhanced the color by adding a bit more blue and some light purples.

After a few hours when the light on the stream had changed, I packed up my gear. Later, I added a few details to the painting back in the studio.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about painting beside an arroyo.
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Beach at Cahoon Hollow

Cahoon Hollow in Wellfleet, Massachusetts is one of the most popular beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore.  There is a steep path down the 75 foot cliff to the beach on the outer arm of Cape Cod. The dramatic cliff collapsed in a  severe rainstorm last fall taking a vehicle with it, but it has since been repaired.  The Beachcomber, a seaside bar at the top of the cliff is part of the beach experience of Cahoon Hollow.

Working from a photo taken in summer, I began the painting of the beach with an alcohol underpainting on sanded pastel paper. This technique is useful when depicting waves that cover the sand on the shore.

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In Process – Cahoon Hollow

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Cahoon Hollow, pastel, 9×12

It is always a challenge to try to capture the motion of the ocean’s surf.  This alcohol wash technique aids in setting the lower layers of sand below the shallow water. I look forward to future paintings of the ocean at the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Technical notes: UArt #400 Sanded Pastel Paper, various pastels including Unison, Terry Ludwig, Girault, Rembrandt, Nu Pastel, and Conte Pastel Pencils. 70% Alcohol.

Flower Power

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“Lupine, Poppies, and Rocks”, pastel, 12×16

Despite the stormy January weather, flowers have the power to brighten the dark days of winter. My painting, “Lupine, Poppies, and Rocks” caught the eye of juror, Peggi Kroll-Roberts at the Delicato Winery Show in Manteca, California. It received an honorable mention in the show which is on exhibit January 11 – February 4, 2017.  The artist reception  will be held on February 4th.  What is not to like about art, wine, and appetizers?

Technical notes: Rembrandt, Unison, Terry Ludwig, NuPastels, and Conte pastel pencils on U Art 400 sanded pastel board.  A few photo references  were taken while on a hike at nearby Brushy Peak in Livermore, CA last spring.

 

Lace, Lighthouse, & Links

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Easel at Cape Cod Nat’l Seashore Highland Links, Truro, MA

Wildflowers in the windswept meadow in the rough of the links course by the Highland Light in Truro caught my eye. The Highland Links dates to 1892. Several artists were painting Cape Cod’s oldest lighthouse which dates to 1857 for the Light on Truro painting event. I chose to focus my attention on the natural beauty of the Cape Cod National Seashore, rather than the architecture of the lighthouse. A sliver of the blue ocean beyond the trees balanced the blue of wild chickory and Queen Anne’s Lace in the foreground. This scene beside the Highland Historical Museum is a reminder of a bygone era when the building was a turn of the century resort hotel on the Outer Cape.

I had a clear vision of the image that I wanted to capture in my painting. Soon I felt I had enough information to sign and frame the piece for an exhibit that afternoon at the Truro Library by the Addison Art Gallery called “Light On Truro”. The exhibit celebrates the Centennial of the National Parks and “Found Our Park!” which features art inspired by the Cape Cod National Seashore. “Queen Anne’s View” is available through the Addison Art Gallery.

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Queen Anne’s View, pastel, 12×16

Technical Notes: Sennelier LaCarte pastel card with a variety of pastels by Rembrandt, Unison, Terry Ludwig, Girault, Sennelier, and Conte pastel pencil.

Japanese Iris Garden

Iris Garden Entry, pastel, 11 x 16

 

The Japanese Iris at the entryway of the Cape Cod Art Association caught my eye on a June afternoon for plein air painting. I loved the deep blues and purples against the many greens. The garden scene was fairly complex with bouganvillea, lilac, and azalea combined with the light and shadow patterns of the weathered shingled wall. There were areas of bright sunlight and deep shadow by the entrance. I am focusing on painting stronger light and shadow and this was a good opportunity for this. I omitted the sculptures on the right and cropped the trellis at the top for emphasis and composition.

Painting notes: Uart #400 Pastel Paper; Pastels – NuPastels, Rembrandt, Terry Ludwig, Unison, and Conte and Carbotello Pastel Pencils. Underpainting of 91% Isopropyl Alcohol.  (See underpainting below:)

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Photo of Iris Garden Entry

Yellow House in Vineyard

"Yellow House in Vineyard", pastel 11x14

“Yellow House in Vineyard”, pastel 11×14


The yellow house in the vineyard caught me eye one day when I was out on my usual walking route. I returned with my painting gear of pastels and set up my easel at the edge of the vineyard last week. Soon, the growth on the grapevines will be pruned to stimulate the growth for the next season. I wanted to catch the vines at their wilder state despite the challenge of depicting the tangled vines. Of course, there is always room for artistic license.
On location in the vineyard

On location in the vineyard


Painting Notes: Some of the background was simplified, so the focus was on the main elements of the scene, the barn, house, and rows of vines. To avoid a tangent of the barn roof and distant hills which, I added some height to the hills. Otherwise, the plein air painting is an accurate interpretation of the scene.
Technical Notes: Pastels by Terry Ludwig, Rembrandt, Sennelier, Nu Pastel, and Conte Pastel Pencils on La Carte Sanded Paper.

Lake Tahoe Test

Lake Tahoe Test

Test Strip and Reference Photo for” Lake Tahoe Afterglow”

To plan my color palette for a new pastel painting,  I began testing colors of various pastel sticks on a strip of  Uart 400 sanded pastel paper. It seemed like a natural approach to interpret a narrow strip from the reference photo. Later, I realized that testing the exposure in a narrow strip was a method that I used in black and white darkroom photography many years ago. It also seemed to translate into planning a pastel painting.

The reference photo was captured on the north shore of Lake Tahoe one October evening just after the sun had slipped  behind the mountains. My challenge in this painting will be to capture the afterglow in the sky and the reflected color on the lake.  I plan to emphasize the landscape format using  non standard dimensions.  I will post more on the painting when it is complete.

 Technical Notes: Pastel brands – NuPastel, Rembrandt, Sennelier, Schminke, Terri Ludwig. Uart 400 Pastel Paper.

 

Harvest Moon Vineyard

Reference Photo Harvest Moon Vineyard

Reference Photo Harvest Moon Vineyard


It was this reference photo of a beautiful moon rising over a vineyard near my home in Livermore, California that inspired my painting. The soft pastel color of the sky contrasted with the strength of the vertical tree and vines.
Mid Stage Harvest Moon Vineyard

Mid Stage Harvest Moon Vineyard


I adjusted some of the color of the vines for visual interest. Also some of the color in the sky and outline of the distant hills were tweaked due to composition and value. This painting is included in a group pastel show at the Orinda Public Library.

“Harvest Moon Vineyard”, pastel, 12×18


Technical Notes: Wallis Sanded Paper (Belgian Mist), Various pastel brands, NuPastel, Rembrandt, Unison, Sennelier, Terry Ludwig, and Conte Pastel Pencils.