Let’s Paint Spears Woods!

Spears Woods of the Palos Division Forest Preserves in Cook County, is one of my most favorite places to hike. Not only does it have many trails to choose from, but is also contains a few wetlands and tons of wildlife! When I hike I take many photos, not because I want to clutter my computer with a billion pictures and make it run slow…but because I know I can pick and choose sections that I like and piece them together in a painting. I’m using that artistic license again!

That’s exactly what I did here. Do you see those two pictures? I placed them next to each other to make a panoramic view. Next I decided to change the season to autumn, and make a focal point in the distance of a separation in trees. First, we lay out our photos and make a sketch on Kitty Wallis pastel paper (museum grade), taped down to a piece of form board. My paper size is 12×18 and the frame size will be 18×24.

Next, I make a nice under painting using pastels, turpenoid and a brush. If you’re not using wallis paper, don’t try this at home because you cannot get most pastel papers wet, you will ruin the paper! This under painting step is so important because it saves you time and you end up using less pastel to finish the painting. It also helps me set the tone of the painting.

Next, I like to start with the top and work my way down. Here, I just overlap the sky with lighter shades of blue. Don’t forget to make “sky holes” in your tree tops. Sky holes are patches of the sky that show through the tree branches, very important, this gives your painting breathing room and makes it not so “heavy”.

Ooooh, it’s starting to come together. In this step, I made some autumn leaves, painted the field, and worked on the water. Remember when painting something in the distance, your eye doesn’t see detail so don’t go crazy painting every blade of grass or leaf!

Final painting! Here I worked on the foreground. As the viewer, you are standing in the shade looking over the water where the morning sun is starting to illuminate the distant trees. You feel cool as this autumn morning is crisp and you hear the activity of the birds that reside at Spears Woods, but you also hear the activity of the migrating geese flying above…..I’m sorry, I can get carried away!

This painting is titled, Early Morning Autumn, when framed it will be 24×18. It will be on view at the LaGrange Art Gallery August 30 – Sept. 27th 2008.


  1. Very lovely! I wish I had your experience in pastels. I always loved them, but being a left-handed child, they were SUCH a mess for me!
    Bit of irony, btw…a title of one of my own recent-ish paintings is “Misty Autumn Morning!”
    Hoping to finish your painting this weekend, btw. I’ll let you know when it’s away. 😉

  2. Shelley: Thanks! I love to get carried away! It’s so easy to do…go on and on and on 🙂

    Lana: I guess we must have autumn on the mind! That’s so funny!!! Don’t worry about the mess, that’s the fun part!
    Cool about the painting, I can’t wait…but take your time..no rush! 🙂

    Drowsey: Thanks! I do get uncontrollably excited! and thanks for the kind comment about your instructor….he…he..he!

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