Let’s Paint Crawdad Slough!

This is Crawdad Slough, part of the Palos Division of the Cook County Forest Preserve System. Crawdad is a pothole filled with water, small but beautiful. There are no designated trails from this spot, but on the first day of Autumn, I could not resist stopping in to admire the beauty of the fall color that are starting to emerge.

So let’s paint it:

Today I am using pastels on wallis museum grade pastel paper. Because I’m on location, I didn’t bring my brush or turpenoid for an underwash, so this painting is going to start and finish completely dry. First, I like to draw in my landscape by sketching it with a pastel pencil…doesn’t matter what color it is because it will be covered up real soon. I use Gioconda 36 count pastel pencils….36 mouth watering colors, O how I love to smell them in the tin box…don’t laugh.
Anyway, after you make a light sketch start on top with the sky and make your way down. I like to paint the far distant trees in a blue shade to show depth. Remember, the further away something is the cooler the color should be, also it should lack detail. Two good tips…no charge.

Next, I began to block in the shapes of some closer trees. Don’t make the great number of trees scare you when painting. It use to scare me a bunch! Make it simple and think only in terms of shapes not trees. The viewer will translate your shapes into trees latter, so take the pressure off. Variate your shapes with slightly different shades of green and autumnal colors.

Here I added distant grasses and green water. Not only is the water reflecting the green of the trees, but do you see that florescent light green line on the surface of the water? That is beautiful algae! It really was that bright color…no joke! I love it.

Finally, we paint in the foreground and add some highlights. I absolutely love cattails. Can you tell which direction the sun is facing by looking at my cattails? Yes! The sun is setting on the left, which means I’m facing North. That’s some good Girl Scouting skills right there! Anyway, the foreground is loaded with color, detail, and movement.

This painting is titled, First Day of Autumn 14×11. It will be made available on the landscape page and probably on display at the Little Red Schoolhouse Art show October 5th, see the schedule page for more information.

Hope you enjoyed the first day of autumn at Crawdad Slough!


  1. Absolutely STUNNING!!! I LOVE your artwork. It’ s visionary and holds inpspiration and charm. Beautiful. You breathe LIFE into a scene. πŸ˜€

    Hugs, JJ

  2. You make it look so simple–while being so beautifully accurate.
    I love the “instructional” tips you’ve shared. And a peek into the process.

    How long would you estimate that picture took you to complete?

  3. Do you paint with acrylics over the pastels, or are they oil, so the paint’s oil, too? Great step by step here, good advice included! Best of luck at the upcoming show!

  4. Shelley: Thanks! I placed a cattail on my window sill one winter and by spring I had a million little puffy seeds all over the place!!! It must have blown up from the heat of the sun through the window…oh what a mess and what fun!

    JJ: Thanks for your encouraging words! It means a lot! πŸ™‚

    Nina: The painting took about 4 hours. I was painting on location for about 1.5 hours but decided to finish at home. Thanks for the kind words!

    Drowsey: Thanks!!! Too bad you didn’t live closer….we could paint together, that would be loads of fun!

    Lana: This was just pastel all the way. Usually, I place a little pastel down and rub it with turpenoid or I use a watercolor underwash, but I didn’t bring all of my supplies and had to deal with pastel alone. Thanks for the encouragement for the show!

    Dave: Thank you Dave! Hope to see you there! Pray for good weather! πŸ™‚

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