Let’s Paint a Nature Trail!

OK, I first have to say that I’m longing for autumn, my most favorite season ever! The greatest thing about being an artist is that you never have to follow any rules. Do I have to paint a landscape summer scene just because we are in the middle of summer? Of course not! If I want snow while it’s humid and 90Β°F, I can just make it myself with a little paint!

Today, I was really missing autumn. The cool breeze, brilliant colors, and crunching of the leaves as you walk on top of them, were some of the things I was daydreaming about. So I went to my photo archives and pulled up a picture that my friend Kurt took last year of a trail at the Little Red Schoolhouse.

The first picture shows my set up at the computer. I made a little (2×3) thumbnail graphite sketch on a piece of paper just to show myself composition and value. Next, I sketched the real thing on a piece of Wallis pastel paper with a 2B pencil.


Next, I painted a watercolor wash under painting and made a big mistake. My colors are way too light and saturated with color. I did not realize this at first, but later became frustrated and questioned my own skills as an artist. You know how it is when things are wrong and you don’t know why…you start asking yourself, “What are you doing? Do you even know how how to paint?” Yeah, it may be a little harsh, but when things don’t turn out they way you expect, you have a tendency to go a little overboard. Well I do at least. When this happens, step back, walk away for 10 minutes and return with the idea that you don’t care if this painting makes it or not, you just want to learn. Sometimes that break gives you “fresh eyes”.

When I returned, I realized my under painting needed to be a lot darker so I laid on the pastels. The whole idea of an under painting is to use minimal pastels. Live and learn.


Next, I blocked in shapes and colors with pastels. My focal point is down the path were the sun is shining through, but look….another mistake! My path looks like a hill and everything is drifting down the right side. How did that happen?!? Working a few inches from the paper, I didn’t see it. Stepping back, it became clear. Make sure when you paint, you step back every 30 minutes or so even though you don’t think you have to!


Here is the final painting. The path is not a hill now, the tree in the foreground is nicely anchored, and shimmering individual autumn leaves are added to the path and tree.

It satisfies my autumn hunger. This painting is 16×20 and titled, Let’s Take a Walk. It will be available on the “landscape” page soon.

Happy 4th of July! Maybe you can find some time on this long holiday weekend to try a painting of your own?

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10 responses to “Let’s Paint a Nature Trail!

  1. excellent tutorial, christine, do you teach? πŸ™‚

    as one rocktober born, no other season comes close for me, either

    i no longer have paints, but got me a new ‘tool’, recently, a wacom cintiq

    now i have to learn its secrets, so i can get back into animating

    that’s not to say i won’t use pencil or ink in future, maybe paint, too, but it’s been a long time since the last one

    writing is in there somewhere, as well …lol

  2. Wow .. you’re an amazing teacher! I like the 2nd painting tho…kind of surreal. But I see what you mean … the final painting is gorgeous!

  3. Loved how this turned out – and you are making me wistful for autumn – one of my favorite seasons too!

  4. Very lovely! Good advice posted here about stepping back every so often. Sometimes mistakes create something even better, too.

  5. Great site though I have to say what’s the rush to fall? You know what comes next! My wife is glad to see your new place, she’s JJ Nature Nut.
    Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes in the summer I’ll pull up some winter photo’s to cool off.

  6. Laughingwolf: I do not teach right now, because my full time job keeps me a prisoner 45 hour a week, but it pays the bills! However, in the future…maybe retirement, I would like to try teaching. πŸ™‚
    I used to have a wacom pen and a little tablet. It was fun! I know what you mean by learning it’s temperaments and secrets. Good luck and have fun. On a cool note, you’re going “green” by not wasting paper!

    Drowsey: Thanks woman! I like to look back at the different stages and study color and shapes in their own forms. πŸ™‚

    Shelley: I hear ya! Who doesn’t love a perfect autumn day? Autumn is so brief we should celebrate it now! πŸ™‚

    Lana: Thanks, I always need to step back! Mistakes galore for me! It’s my excuse to keep adding paintings around my house…practice, practice. I must do more!

    Forestman: Hi there JJ’s Forestman! Yes, I know the “W” word comes next, but I think your winter’s are much more harsh than mine! I’ve seen some of JJ’s beautiful below zero winter photos and it looks pretty but not fun to be out in!
    Thanks for stopping by and tell JJ “Hi!”

  7. yes, but the other reason for going with a cintiq, you see what you draw, immediately, on the pad, rather than having to look at the monitor

    there are three cintiq models now

    i think you’d make a great teacher, judging from your posts πŸ™‚

  8. Your final result is enchanting!! I’d like to walk down that path of beautiful colors. Do you like Claude Monet’s paintings? I’ve been reading a fascinating book about his garden, and he was always very aware of the effect of “shimmer”.

  9. amazing work Christie…….though i am not a mature artist but still when I paint and dont get the expected results I also feel the same way……. thank you for giving suggestion on how to rectify d problems:)

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