The reference photo I used for it is from Yellowstone National Park. Living in Montana has made it really easy to go visit Yellowstone regularly. The fun thing about going so regularly is that we get to see the park in all its various seasons. Last year we saw super-blooms with fields of flowers and later the gorgeous reds, oranges, and yellows of autumn . This year we got to see amazing thunderstorms roll in and early morning fog . The morning fog looked so beautiful on this day with the sunlight shining through it. I am hoping to create some finished pieces for my Etsy shop in the next few weeks.
You will notice some differences between the sketchbook painting and the reference photo. I simplified the landscape in my painting for several reasons. The first was because of the size of the painting. I was working in a sketchbook so I didn’t have a lot of room to paint tons of details. Also Strathmoore 400 paper is good for things like sketchbooks and simple paintings but it cant handle as many layers of glazing and scrubbing like Arches can so I simplified the painting so I wouldn’t have to fight my paper as much. The other reason i simplified the landscape is to make the video easier for you to follow and not have it be ten thousand hours long. The longer it takes me to paint a picture the more i have to speed up and trim out piece of the process. In total this painting took me about 4 hours for me to complete.
Here is the list of the tools I used:
* M. Graham Watercolors (Azo green, Hookers Green, sap green, Cad Orange, Cad yellow, Ultramarine blue, cerulean Blue, and Ultramarine Violet).
*Strathmoore 400 Watercolor Sketchbook
*Creative Mark Mimik Paint brushes (Grey Handle)
*Princeton Neptune 1/4 Dagger Brush
*Fineline Masking Fluid
If you have any questions about this painting please feel free to ask below.
In the late fall of 2016 on of my old coworkers contacted me to see if I would be willing or even able to do a really complex and personal idea for a painting.
She told me about how her father would make up folk stories to tell his children while on family road trips. As he started telling these legends he started to give his children symbolic names related to their personality and would use them as the characters in the stories. These stories became an important family tradition and every new family member added through birth or marriage received a new name that was woven in to the family legends.
Her painting idea was to have a realistic nature painting that incorporated all 23 names in a cohesive manner. Some of the names like “Bear”, “Cascading Falls”, and “Many Bends In River” were pretty straightforward in what they could be represented by in the painting. Other names were more abstract like “Sky Writer” and “Secret Whisperer” which required me to come up with something that would accurately represent each person and why they were given that name. Another challenge was that although some of the names had a straightforward visual representations connected to them they were difficult to incorporate into the picture in a cohesive manner and had to be modified.
As you can imagine that with complex nature of this painting it was going to take a while to figure how to represent the each name, how to balance the layout, find reference photos for each item, and paint it in a manner that made it look like a unified painting and not like elements were just copy and pasted together. I had to spend a day just figuring out how I was going to do the lighting on the painting because the painting had a lot of back lighting from a sunset that was in the painting to incorporate the name “Sunset Cruiser”. I had to figure out how the back lighting would affect each element in the picture because more often than not my reference photo wasn’t a picture with back lighting. I also couldn’t let the backlighting from the sunset cause too much silhouetting and darkening of the foreground because all the name elements in the foreground still needed to be prominent.
This took months of back and fourth brainstorming with my friend, moving states for me (and countries on her part), adding more names (their family is still growing), and learning various watercolor techniques I knew I would need to paint this project. I was finally able to complete the painting in the fall of 2017.
This painting stretched me as an artist and pushed me outside my comfort zone in every way. For a while I had a lot of anxiety when I thought about this painting. Some of the anxiety was because I knew I needed to develop my skills as a watercolorist before I would be able to paint it well. But most of my anxiety and fear came because I knew how much this painting meant to the family that commissioned it and I didn’t want to disappoint them. Thankfully, with a lot of prayer, practice, and time to work on this painting we ended up with a finished product that we were all happy with.
The family was able to give it to their dad for christmas and later told me the painting brought tears to his eyes. That is the greatest compliment I can be given about my work. I want the art I create to bring feelings of love, joy, happiness, and peace and its thrilling when I succeed.
When I first started using soft pastels I started with a small ten dollar store brand set. They felt and responded more like colored chalk than actual soft pastels. All the colors were anemic and the only dark color was black. I found them difficult to work with and couldn’t get the look I was trying to achieve.
Years later when I started painting with watercolor regularly I learned the difference between child grade, student grade, and professional art supplies. This knowledge changed my entire art experience. I was no longer frustrated with how weak my watercolors were in saturation. I remember my first time painting with a set of good quality watercolor paints and feeling so relaxed as I painted. I didn’t feel like I had to fight my paints anymore. Creating the pictures that were in my mind started to happen more easily.
A few months after this experience with watercolors I became inspired with some beautiful soft pastel paintings I had seen demonstrated on the show “Color in your life.” Seeing these artist work inspired me to pull out that ten dollar set again experiment with the pastels.
I learned that soft pastel artists often work on sanded surfaces so I went to the garage and pulled out some sandpaper to experiment with how the pastels responded to a different surface.
Being older and having a better understanding of art I could more objectively analyze what I liked and disliked verses being a kid and just throwing my paper way after getting frustrated. I liked how the pastels layered, it was a fast medium to work in (like watercolor), and how you could achieve easily achieve an impressionistic effect. I liked how the sanded paper held the pigment and allowed for many layers compared to my cold press watercolor I had been experimenting on. I didn’t like how my set was so chalky and didn’t have much pigment to it. As a result of this experimentation I decided to see what decent quality pastels I could find for a reasonable price. I ended up finding this koh-I- Noor pastel set and a Sennelier (yay!) 60 half stick set on amazon for really good deals. So I ordered them along with some Uart sanded pastel paper.
Getting those pastels was one of the best decisions I’ve made in regards to art. I experimented, played, and learned as much about pastels as I could find online. I watched hours of free YouTube tutorials and tried different techniques. I learned that I absolutely love this medium. It filled in the gaps that watercolor couldn’t quite fill. I learned I especially love painting pastel landscapes. Which was perfect because I typically dislike painting landscapes in watercolor. I also liked how easy it was to fix mistakes.
Since getting those two sets of pastels my pastel collection has grown by quite a lot. I have since tried pan pastels, mount vision pastels, Richardson’s, nupastels, Stabilo CarbOthello pastel pencils, Schmincke, and my current favorite terry Ludwig pastels. Each brand and type of pastel has its own characteristics that I am learning how to utilize. I hope to do reviews on these pastels types of the next few months.
Have you ever worked in soft pastels? If so, do you have a favorite brand? Leave a comment down below letting me know.