This has been a tough month for my wife and I. Our cocker spaniel, Peaches, a beloved and dear companion for 15 years has been struggling with terminal kidney failure, and despite all the intervention, is succumbing to its ravages. My heart isn’t in it to type a discussion of the past week’s artwork. She’s been there, at the foot of my drawing table, through so many paintings. She’ll be missed. So, for now, I’ll just post photos of my latest update.
Work In Progress: Withlacoochee Flight, Update 7
I’ve completed the smaller foliage masses catching sunlight within the larger mass on the right side. To add more definition and make them appear more real, I further defined the edges by working dark color along mostly the top edges where the sun strikes them the hardest. Here, I worked in naples yellow (FC) here and there as the brightest spots among broader chartreuse (P) areas. The more shadowed lower areas contained more chrome oxide green (FC) and even a bit of Tuscan red (P) in the deepest shadows. There was very little attempt at uniform blending because the splotchy, irregular juxtaposing of tiny lights and darks gave a more realistic feel for leaves. By adding multiple layers and pressing hard with the pencils, color intensity and density was maximized and very little of the white paper showed through. I was also careful to use crisp, sharp strokes to define the edges of the Spanish moss hanging from the tree limbs. Gentle curves to the moss gives the feeling of breezes acting on them. The moss still has to be finished up by adding some color and shading, but I’ll add that at a later time.
My attention now is on the palms at the left side of the painting. The first task at hand was to lay in basic colors, lights and darks, shadows, and get a feel for the grouping of trees. Using multiple photos of palms as reference, I blocked in the palm fronds, both living and dead. Here, I added a few more colors as I felt they were needed. For the green, living fronds I used limepeel (P), chartreuse (P), chrome oxide green (FC) and a bit of chromium green opaque (FC). I used the chrome oxide green quite a bit to draw in the darker, shadowed areas. Doing so, defined the lighter areas. In the darkest areas I added burnt umber (FC) and dark sepia (FC). The dead fronds do add some interest to the foliage mass and I consider them important in portraying realism and providing contrast to the greens of living fronds. Here I used ginger root (P), raw umber (FC), burnt umber (FC) and some dark sepia (FC), as well as cream (FC).
In adding in the palm trees, all I’m interested in at this stage is to rough them in, get the lights and darks in and get a feel for the structure. I try always to work from lesser detail to greater detail – block in structures and then refine them. This way I get a feel for the overall form and how the parts fit together to produce that form.
From here, I will start working toward greater and greater detail and color intensity and density.
Many thanks to all the participants in my recently concluded Introduction to Colored Pencils class in the On Top of the World Communities’ Master the Possibilities education program. It was a pleasure teaching the class, as all the students were enthusiastic and eager to learn. Your seriousness was evident through all the classes by the questions you asked and especially by the marked progress made by each of you, from beginning exercises through to the finished artwork. I hope that I’ve instilled in you a love for this remarkable medium and all that it is capable of.
Work In Progress: Withlacoochee Flight, Update 6
This past week has been very busy and I’ve not gotten as much done on this painting as I would have liked. I’m teaching some colored pencil classes and that has taken up much time. Also, my constant companion, Peaches, our wonderful Cocker Spaniel, is nearly 15 years old now and requiring more of our time. We’ve shared many adventures, many trips to the mountains, and hiked many trails together. She’s gone just about everywhere we have. Since my retirement we’ve spent just about all our waking hours together. My wife and I are devoting more time to her now, for her appetite is diminishing and we’re exploring all kinds of food options to coax her into eating more.
On to the painting.
So, at this point I’ve nearly finished the tree mass on the right side – all except for the details on the foliage that’s catching sunlight. After roughing in the light and dark areas I began layering in the dark shadows. To do this I alternated chrome oxide green (FC) and tuscan red (P). To keep the area from being solid black I made irregular patches of Tuscan red. These areas, when combined with chrome oxide green formed the deepest shadows. Areas without the last layer of tuscan red were not quite as dark and suggested foliage in shade but not deep shade. This adds a bit of three dimensionality to the structure and keeps it from appearing flat. Here and there I added a bit of chartreuse (P).
Next I’ll finish up the foliage masses that are catching sunlight. After that, I think I’ll start work on the palms on the left side.
Work In Progress: Withlacoochee Flight Update 5
This past week I worked on the large mass of tree on the right side. I wanted to get them in because I was getting too fixated on the distant trees and wasn’t sure if more detail was necessary. Composition principles told me those distant trees should be ambiguous and indistinct but, without anything else on the paper, they took center stage. I had to remember they would be backdrop to more important and closer objects. So, I left them with suggestive detail and decided to work on objects closer up. I knew that once closer and more important objects were rendered, the distant trees would recede from importance – and that seemed to happen as I put in more and more of the closer and larger mass of trees on the right. Even at this point, having put in about half of the trees, attention is drawn away from the distant trees and they become more of a backdrop.
The first step to painting in that large grouping of trees was to very roughly, and very lightly, block in the important light and dark masses within the larger mass of trees. I used the color sketch as a basis. The darker areas were roughly filled in with chrome oxide green (FC). Once the darker value areas were mapped out I colored in the lighter masses with chartreuse.
Next, I started working small sections, slowly refining the shapes of each by adding more and more detail, filling in more color, strengthening the values. To make the darkest shadows I mixed tuscan red (P) and chrome oxide green (FC). For the lighter values I added chromium green opaque (FC) and naples yellow (FC) to the chartreuse.
I’ll continue in this manner, working from rough to detailed, completing sections at a time, until the entire mass of trees on the right is finished.