Tag Archives: marsh

fun pastel color experiment finished / marsh

The colors look warmer in real life than they do in the photo.

It was more work than I thought it would be. I put about 3 more layers of color on top of my underpainting and completely filled up the tooth of that sanded pastel paper. All together I think I went over the paper 6 times, first to sketch it in charcoal, then the underpainting in complimentary colors, then blend that first layer of pastel down into the paper with my Kneeded eraser. Those layers didn’t make my hand tired but then when I went over it with the last layers I had to press down hard on the pastel because the paper won’t hold any more color.

You can see a lot of the underpainting colors show through.

I don’t know what’s going on with those stick bushes. I’ll call it a design element. It’s not like that in real life but this is abstract, so, whatever. hahaha

I might go back to the beach next and try to paint waves with oils more realistically.

a little out of focus on the bottom of this photo.

cedar tree and bare tree with water and background sedge behind them and sedge in front,

reflections of background trees and sky in the flooded path,

more sedge with green leaves on a stick bush in the foreground.

Foreground tree on top of cedar with reflections in the creek and background sedge and background trees.

Background tree and sky with top of cedar tree on the bottom right.

I scribbled. It was fun.

I might try this color experiment again in the future with paint instead of pastel and different subject matter.

unfinished pastel color experiment / marsh

These colors might be ok on a valentine but they really look bad in this landscape. It’s an underpainting in the complimentary colors of the ones in nature. When I go over this again the areas in purple will be yellow, the areas in orange will be blue and the areas in pink will be green. Warm grays should be cool grays etc.

I don’t know if it will work. It might but it might not. I still haven’t decided if the one I did before worked out. I think people liked the previous one but I’m not sure I like it. I put it away to decide later. This might not take long to finish because I’m 2/3 of the way finished with it.

If it’s a total flop I’ll still post it finished. Not like I’m a real pro and have a reputation to protect, or like I can’t waste time on an unmarketable painting. I don’t even care if someone critiques it and blasts it straight to hell. At this point I want to blast it too. And if it gets a horrible review I won’t defend it, so, have at it if you want to, but you might want to wait to see it finished before you decide. It could get even worse! hahah

But seriously, folks, you don’t learn anything from a soft critique. I never joined a critique group because I already know those artists are friends and they don’t want to hurt each others feelings. The critique would be all fluff. When I was a young chick in art school a critique might start out like, “This painting sux on so many levels, let me list them for you.” I’m not joking. Were they trying to toughen us up for the future of our paintings being constantly rejected and trying to make us improve our paintings too?

You can try hard to make a good painting and get a horrible critique. You have to change your attitude so that it doesn’t hurt your feelings. It is possible to change the way you hear criticism. Change to just not caring, like me. People talk about apathy like it’s a bad thing but it is a good defense. Take this pastel for example. My teachers at the academy would say the colors are nauseating. When it’s finished they would tell me it vibrates like it’s on drugs or something. Do I want to project insanity out into the world. no one wants to see that. etc.

If an art expert says they have an academic background and they give you a soft critique they are misleading you about their background. Or if they have the academic background and they fear a critique they are lying about something.

I’ll give you the first step in critique. Squint your eyes and look through your eyelashes to make the picture blurry. Do you see any arrangement of lights and darks? That’s the composition. If it all blurs together into one mass of the same value the composition is weak.

I’d just like to add one more thought about the academy. Art universities are not the academy. At a university a student might be encouraged to follow the path in art that interests them the most. They might get a semester of anatomy but not have to study it twice a week for 3 years with a lot of homework. At the academy you don’t get to chose your projects. You have to do the academic exercises. I wouldn’t have done it because it’s not fun, but I was having so much fun otherwise that I always went to class and did what was required, even if I did those exercises half heartedly.

If an art expert claims to have an academic background they will prove it to you without a doubt. If they post a drawing of a skull you will know that they didn’t lift some photo of a skull and photoshop it. If all you see from them is digital art maybe they aren’t showing their drawing and painting skill because they didn’t really go to an academy. There are tons of fake people in the art world and online. If an artist gets super defensive about their work they didn’t go to an academy because the academy will knock that attitude out of you. Those are some of the red flags to spot a poser in the art world.

Another red flag is art jargon. If they write in jargon they didn’t learn that at the academy. The teachers at an academy speak in plain English. Art isn’t rocket science. Jargon is a sign of a fake expert. The poser is trying to impress on you how smart they are.

sketch for a pastel / charcoal

It was great to get out and draw this today after so many days of bad weather. It’s still cloudy and cool but that’s a big improvement over sunny but too cold and windy or rain and wind. It seems like I’ve been walking past this spot for months thinking of sketching it. The real pretty dead tree got knocked down so it’s not in the picture but it’s right across the path there and I sat on it to take a break. I didn’t draw it because it’s down and the drawing doesn’t need the dead tree laying down. Standing up would be nice, oh well, next time I find a pretty dead tree I’ll work faster.

The path is flooded , the creek is in the middle. They can both reflect the sky a little and there’s lighter ochre colored sedge and some darker reeds which will overlap the water. Some stick bushes with a few leaves, bare trees. The cedar trees are pretty because some orange is showing in the foliage along with green.

I want to do my underpainting in the complimentary colors like my last marsh pastel project. This looks complicated to me.

Now I have to take inventory of my pastel colors because last time I didn’t have the colors I needed. You can buy a big set of pastels and not have what you need. You can buy another set and have a couple hundred pastels but still not have what you need. You keep using the same colors over and over again because those are your favorites and those wear down so you have to replace individual colors from time to time. I still need to do color roughs on a scrap paper to try a few different layers and see if I can mix the color I need. There’s so many variables that no two artists pick the same colors for a scene. You’re making a lot of fast decisions.

I think I can color this at home instead of lugging the pastels out on the path. I tried to make mental notes of the colors when I was sketching but this will be another slightly abstract pastel with the complimentary colors in the first layer. It won’t matter if the colors don’t match nature.

scenic driving and sketches

Pungo Ferry

Yesterday I wanted to sketch the broken canoe I saw a while back. I looked it up on Google maps but still got lost. I couldn’t find the right road and I drove down a few country roads but had to turn around. I was lost on the same roads that I was lost on last year.

It’s nice to get lost in the country around here. It’s beautiful! Huge fields on flat ground so you have a long view over these big farms. Some had horses. They’re building a lot down there in Pungo. (I love that name). There wasn’t a lot of traffic but most of it was trucks and they’re working on the road and doing utility work too. Pungo is big!

When I gave up on finding the broken canoe and turned around to go home I saw a sign for Pungo Ferry boat launch and they have a park there and a nice overlook of this bridge over a huge marsh with a creek that a few big boats went under the bridge heading out. There’s an abandoned boat but it’s not as picturesque as the canoe was. I might go back there.

It was nice out again today so I tried to find the broken canoe again and I found the right spot but the canoe was gone. I guess others don’t see the stark beauty in broken boats that I see. The same goes for dead trees. They have so much personality, if you know what I mean. But a real pretty dead tree that I sketched last year and never got around to painting got knocked down. The canoe was visible from the road.

I walked a few yards down the road and there are a couple pretty places I could sketch. It’s a country road with not too much traffic. I stepped about 10 feet off the road and past some no trespassing signs to get this sketch. Rules don’t apply to me. I sat down to sketch and had my brown coat on. No one noticed me. I think if I only stay an hour or so and sit down to draw I can get away with it. But this isn’t really the view I wanted. I don’t know.

Then instead of going straight home I found my way back to Pungo Ferry and drove across the bridge in the first sketch. It was freakin beautiful on top of the bridge. You could see a long way up the marsh and creek. And traffic was slow because of construction so I got a good look but there’s no place to park and sketch. Then I was waaaay out in the country somewhere and found my way home guessing which roads to turn on. I looked at the map yesterday but didn’t write down the directions. I was lost again but still in Virginia Beach, I think. Virginia Beach is huge and has these little towns in it, as far as I know, like Sandbridge, Pungo, Creeds, Kempsville, I forget what all. People usually only think of the ocean front when they think of VA. Beach.

I might go out again tomorrow to sketch because they’re predicting rain coming in a few days.

fun color experiment with pastels finished / bent tree

This was so much fun to do on a snow day I want to try again with another subject. I didn’t know if it would work out or not. Last night I wasn’t sure if I liked it but this morning it looks ok to me. Yes, I did force color into a scene that would be more gray but to my eye it’s not a glaring forced color like when you see VIOLET (straight out of the tube) in the grass in a landscape. My forced color is “refined”. hahahahah

In this close up you can see the blue underpainting with orange and yellow lines on top to represent sedge, with light blue scribbles on top of a light orange underpainting in the water and twisted branches making negative shapes.

Here are some background trees which are drawn with green on top of a dark red underpainting and some yellow sedge drawn on top of a violet underpainting, and some other green vegetation on top of an orange underpainting color.

Another section of complimentary colors on top of the underpainting.

Reflections with sedge and water.

I imagine this shows the winter light because the orange underpainting shows through the water. In the winter the sunlight has an orange glow. while there might not be much “local color” (that’s what they call the actual color of a subject if it’s not changed by the light source) you often see sedge glowing bright orange as you’re driving down the road. If you bring a piece of it home and look at the color it’s really only a dull sandy color.

That’s one reason I like winter more than summer for the beauty of it. In the summer everything’s green but in the winter when the sunlight is on a long angle before it hits us, the blue light is filtered out by the atmosphere and the orange spectrum colors get through causing the gold glow.

pastel color experiment / bent tree

The experiment is to start with contrasting colors in my underpainting. The sedge on the bottom is an orange color so blue is the opposite on the color wheel. The sky should be light blue so I started with light orange. The sedge on the other side of the water is more gold colored so I started with violet. I’ll draw lines on top of this with the complimentary colors and build up layers. Some of the underpainting colors might show through.

I started the next step which is to push the first layer of pastel into the paper so it will hold more color. I’m using terpenoid on paint brushes and going over each color of pastel again and making it wet. The terpenoid dissolves the pastel a little and makes it kind of like a wash. Then you wait for it to dry and you can build up more color on top. The sanded paper is nice because it has more tooth than regular pastel paper and holds more pigment. You can scrub the first layer in with a blending stump or use fixative but the terpenoid is a nice effect and doesn’t dull the colors or make my hand tired like fixative and blending stumps.

We’re in for bad weather so I didn’t want to wait around to do this in Plein air and decided to do it at home. Then I made another big decision to forget about matching the colors of nature, just see what I can fake.

I was thinking about how the academy would h8 this. Fitzkee would say I’m trying to force color. To this day, when I see a landscape with violet and I know there’s no violet in real life, I think, forced color, weak. hahahah. It’s ok. Fitzkee’s dead. Rest In Peace, Fitzkee. He was a great teacher. Maybe he wouldn’t care about this experiment. I proved I can follow the rules of the academy. He told me I had to do that first, follow the rules. Not just read about the rules, you have to get the discipline of doing it. Then you can do any style you want to do or make up your own.

This might not even work. I don’t know. If its a flop I’ll show it to you anyway. Like, what have I got to lose. If it’s a failure, let it be an epic failure.

another try at the bent tree over the marsh

This is a plan for a pastel on large sanded paper.

The spot is an overlook next to a sidewalk with a couple benches. Its next to a busy road so I wasn’t sure if its a place I want to set up my easel and paint. Cars are going by fast and when I drive past there I think the drivers won’t notice me because I’m back in the corner and some trees are next to the spot. When I was there for a while I thought it felt safe.

A soldier jogged past me wearing sweats and a guy walking stopped to look so I said hi. He said, “Don’t let me stop you.” I said, “That’s ok.” We said, how you doin? He asked me how long I’d be there and I said, long time but not today. Then he asked me if I’d be there in 30 min. I said no, why? And he said he wants to see my progress so I told him check back next week.

Its going to get cold again tomorrow then we have more winter weather coming in at the end of the week. If I can pick out some colors I might be able to work on this at home a while. I’d like to try to do an impressionistic look with short smears of different colors that blend together visually to give the colors and values I want. It could take some time depending on the weather. I’ll build up layers with the pastels.

The background is complicated with sky, trees far away, trees closer, water with reflections of background trees and reflected sky. Then there’s the sedge which should go in before the bent tree in the foreground. The tree has some leaves hanging on.

The little numbers on the bottom left are from my color charts so I can try to pick some colors at home and not take all my pastels out with me. I took the charts along today and tried to pick the colors close to nature.

marsh with egret / art theory


This is watercolor with Inktense pencils in the grass. I’m not sure if I should work on the egret more or stop now.

When I see a beautiful place like this, I want to paint all of it. I wonder why the trend in art is to simplify. I need bigger paper so I can put more of the scene in the picture.

My theory is this, if an artist’s life is complicated they feel the need to simplify their art. Most peoples’ lives are complicated. My life is so extremely simple most people would die of boredom. That’s why I enjoy the complexity of nature so much.

I look at this scene and think about things like, that’s a great habitat for an egret but inhospitable for a human. How many snakes are down there? How many of those snakes are poisonous? Is the light better in the afternoon? Because the parking spot close to my little overlook will be full and I’ll have to walk a mile with my art supplies if I don’t get there early. Why did the trees die? An inlet is on the other side of that row of trees and the path floods. Did the marsh water get saltier, killing trees? Or did beetles do that? I might never know the answers to my questions but that’s the kind of things my mind goes to.

Since my life is so simple, I feel like my mind is more balanced, thinking about simple questions and not stressing about serious problems. It makes me look slow in comparison to other artists. I can’t call myself “prolific” because it takes a week to finish a watercolor. That’s ok. If I was an artist that felt compelled to make art in some type of frenzied state, (the other extreme) ┬áthat would be unbalanced for me.

As always, feel free to opine.

how I rig up my taboret for plein air painting at the beach


I looked at plein air easels in catalogs, and saw most of them don’t have spikes on the legs. They also have tiny pallets. I have an easel with spikes, It’s saved my painting from falling down in the wind a lot of times. I wonder why spikes aren’t always on plein air set ups. And why the tiny pallets? How’s an artist going to mix up colors and thin them down with turp for a glaze? I guess that might be one reason plein air impressionists don’t use a palette knife to mix paint, their pallets are too small. I usually spend a lot of time preparing my paint so I need a big enough palette to mix a few colors. I bought a palette for watercolor or acrylic and discarded the sponge it came with. I have a piece of glass with duct tape on the back to mix on. I can see my colors and values better on the gray duct tape than on a white background.

They make the plein air kits so it all fits in a box you have to lug out to your location. Maybe most plein air painters don’t go over sand dunes or down long trails. A few years ago I bought this beach cart with wide wheels. That’s how I can take all these heavy supplies down a sandy trail. I lay my cart on it’s side close to my easel on the left because I’m left handed, and put my palette on the side of my cart. It’s off the ground high enough that I can easily reach it, and it was windy this week but my palette stayed wedged in that spot and didn’t blow down. I had to keep a hand on my painting at all times, and when I stopped painting I had to take it off the easel and put it on the ground so it wouldn’t blow down. Even so, sand gets into my paint and sticks blow on it that I can brush off most of after the paint dries.IMG_1956

This is my camera’s perspective of the scene. It looks far away compared to my naked eye perspective, and the colors look more gray. It got a little cloudy so the shadows aren’t showing up in this photo. This is why I don’t use a photo to get my sketch.

Instead of starting my painting from the weak perspective of the camera, I hold up my sketchbook and try to imagine it’s transparent. I decide how much of the scene is covered by my sketchbook and measure my perspective by comparing nature to the size of my paper. I try to decide where I want my horizon line to be on my sketch and how far I can extend my sketch on each side. How many trees can I fit in the painting, how much sedge, water, etc.

Even though I am trying to match the colors and values of nature so that I can make the illusion of depth, I can’t copy nature exactly.

I recently read an article about a plein air painter who says don’t copy nature, just do your own interpretation of it. His paintings were monochromatic. What’s the point of going out to paint in plein air if you’re not trying to match the colors and values of nature? I can’t see anything more beautiful than nature as it is. My own interpretation comes through in the painting even though I am trying to copy the beauty of nature as I see it. That artist with the big write up in a magazine has a much larger ego than I do if he thinks his monochromatic fuzzy flat paintings are somehow better than real life.IMG_1954

This is my painting with one layer of glazes over the whole canvas. You can see the difference between my naked eye perspective and the camera’s. My perspective is up close and personal compared to my photo. So, what is real? It could be entirely something else from the naked eye or the camera.