Monthly Archives: October 2008

Let’s Paint Autumn Nest!

On my last nature adventure with my Mom, we spotted this cute bird’s nest which was eye level on a shrub or young tree of which I have not yet identified. Not only did we discover a nest but beautiful blue berries too! Here is a picture of the actual nest:

I fell in love with it right away! I don’t know what kind of bird made it, but the funnest way to study something is to paint it.

So let’s get going…Let’s paint Autumn Nest!

Step 1: Make a rough sketch on wallis paper with charcoal. It doesn’t have to be exact, this just helps break up that big mean white space that everybody has to starts with.

Step 2: Even though this is going to be a pastel painting, we are going to lay the foundation with watercolors. Why? Two very good reasons. First, you cover a lot of ground with little paint, saving you from running out of your pastels too quickly. Second, you can create colors you might not have in your pastel collection. But mostly, I love starting with watercolors because it give the painting a nice soft flow-y effect. In this step I sprayed the background with water and put down big sweeps of cerulean blue. While wet, I painted the main branches and little twigs. Next I made the shape of the nest. No details in this step, details are for pastels.

Step 3: Now it starts to come to life! After step 2 is completely dry, take some rich colors like orange, fuchsia, and a vibrant blue and make some twigs on the nest. Remember, the cool colors on the bottom because they are in shadow and the warm colors on top where the sun hits the rim. Also, take a deep rich brown and make closer more defined twigs growing out of the thicker branches. I like to add some sage green colors to the larger branches. Tree trunks should always have a bit of green in them, never all brown. I don’t know why, it seems to look more believable.

Step 4 Final: Just keep layering twigs for the nest. Take your time…it’s so much fun! Add blue or purple for shadows underneath the nest and the under side of the branches. Add some fun berries, not in clusters though, that’s not how it looked on the field. Next, make the sky right behind the nest a little lighter with a pale light blue.
I can’t explain why I use the colors I do. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason but it just feels like it belongs. Never limit yourself because you think a certain color will look ridiculous. Just do it. If it doesn’t work, you can always change it by layering with another colors or scrubbing it away with a stiff brush and starting again. Be free. No mistakes in art.

Autumn Nest

This painting will be on display for the LaGrange Art Gallery’s “Unexpected Treasures” show running November thru December, with an opening reception on Friday, November 14, 2008 7pm-9pm. Live music, food and wine! I will be there, maybe you can too?

I hope you enjoyed this pastel painting demonstration!


We Got Graupel!

Weird weather in Chicago today. This afternoon we had very strong winds due to an incoming cold front and what I thought was hail because it was a warm 50°F, but in 3 short hours the temp dipped about 10 degrees. What i thought was hail wasn’t loud or damaging like hail..was it…could it be snow? Why Yes. Well, sort of? It’s graupel. Graupel is when there is contact between snow crystals and supercooled droplets. The droplets cling to the crystals and freeze. Sort of like snow on snow I guess. The cool part is that graupel looks like styrofoam balls which perplexed this nature lover! So sit back and enjoy this graupel in my yard. Why, it was only yesterday I was dreaming of winter!

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Let’s Paint a Winter Landscape!

Oh boy! How I love winter! It always seems that I get impatient for the next season to arrive, I start to daydream about it and then I have to paint it way before it starts!

So here we go:

Step 1: Here is the rough sketch on wallis pastel paper using vine charcoal. I always like to see where I’m going before I go. The charcoal will wash off a little when you go to step 2 but it won’t wash off completely so you’ll be able to keep your orientation.

Step 2: The lovely under wash! This is one of the most fun steps to complete! I sprayed the whole paper with a mist of water, grabbed my watercolors and laid down the foundation for this magical winter scene. Remember, we’re not going for details so let your colors bleed and blend. Cerulean blue for the sky, alizarin crimson for distant pines, and sap green with a little indigo blue for the closer pines. Do this step real fast because you want your colors to melt together. Use what’s left over on your pallet for the stream and some concentrated sky paint for the snow shadows.

Step 3: Let step 2 completely dry. Now were getting serious! Make a line of closer pines with Unison dark pastels. You can use a dark blue, you can use a dark green, you can even use a dark purple. Get wacky. Unison pastels are able to get real dark unlike the darkest Rembrandt Pastels, which will frustrate you if you try to make them work. Don’t forget a little bit of snow on the pine boughs, not white though…that would be too harsh, use a soft blue or purple to represent snow in the shade.

Step 4: Finally, add some snow on the land with the lightest blue you have. I also added warm colors like yellows and oranges to the highlights on the snow mounds. A deeper purple was added to the snow shadows and the cutest little snow droplets in the stream was made. These snow droplets represent snow gathered on top of some large rocks in the stream. When including something in the water don’t forget to give it some reflection or it won’t look like it belongs.

From the Pines
5×7 Pastel

This painting will hopefully be on display and for sale at the LaGrange Art Gallery November – December. If you would like to purchase it before then you can contact me here: .

I hope you enjoyed this step by step painting demonstration!

Holy Sunsets!

Same time of day….different days.

This picture was taken by my daughter on her cell phone as we were driving home on the highway. The reds and oranges exploded in just a few short minutes. Doesn’t it look as if the sky is on fire? I love it! The little bit of red you see below the horizon is a reflection of the sky on a small body of water.

Just a few days later at about the same time, I encountered another amazing sky…

Who needs to live on the coast to enjoy such breathtaking views? Not I! I’m such a lucky ducky! The amazing thing about a sunset is how quickly it’s beauty escapes us! Blink and the colors change, look away and it’s gone for good. I appreciate all of the colors in a sunset. These pictures make excellent reference material for some great pastel paintings. I hope to paint them soon!

Let’s Paint Day Lit Moon!

Remember the pictures of the day lit moon and autumn trees?
Let’s paint it!

Here is a sketch of our painting. I am using vine charcoal to make a rough sketch on wallis pastel paper. Don’t forget the little moon!

Speaking of the moon, I used some masking fluid to protect the paper underneath to make sure we get a nice bright white moon…just how it looked the evening I took the picture. Make sure you thoroughly let this dry before taking the next step or you’ll have a yucky mess. I have no patients so I whipped out my hair dryer and made it dry real quick!

Here I did a watercolor underwash. Remember, you’re going to need contrast so everything in this step is pretty dark. Let this dry completely or get your hair dryer out. I did.

Now the fun part! With pastels, add some autumn leaves. Look at how 3D-ish it is starting to look. Good. Don’t forget your sky holes too!

Finally, add some color to the ground, define the tree stumps and some twigs, and take off the masking fluid over the moon. I did shade the moon with the palest cream.

Day Lit Moon is about 9×7 and will be placed in a 10×8 black frame. It will be on display and for sale at the LaGrange Art Gallery in November and December.

Hope you enjoyed this demonstration!