Let’s Paint a Little Creek!

I am grateful on this Memorial Day that I can do what I wish in a free country. What I wish to do is hike where I want and paint what I love. I do not take that for granted!

Today I am going to paint a little creek I found at Morton Arboretum . It was at this very spot I heard an owl whoot several times. When I first heard it I literally had to stop myself and ask in my head..”Did I really hear what I thought I did, or did I just imagine it?” After hearing another “whoo, whoo” and another…I knew I did not just make it up! I could not find him though, but I knew he was there.

So here we go! Let’s paint a little creek where the owl went “Whooo, woo”!

Step 1:Here you can see my set up. This will be a pastel painting with a watercolor underwash. I have my reference photo to the right, a pre-cut mat to the left (I like to know what’s going to show and what’s going to be hidden under that mat, and a piece of Kitty Wallis pastel paper mounted to an acid free foam board of which I made a rough sketch in charcoal.

Step 2: With watercolor paints, I made a loose wash. Blue for the sky and water, green/gray for the distant trees, a little yellow for the sunset, green gold for the distant grasses, and dark purple for the land around the creek. Let them mix and move around, you will be covering some of this with pastels later on, so it really doesn’t matter if you are exact. While the paint was still wet, I took a sharp edge and scraped in some distant tree shapes.

Step 3: After your background is dry, with watercolor paints, make a deep purple color by mixing indigo blue, crimson and a touch of green. Paint some tree figures in your painting. Don’t forget their reflections in the water. Remember…reflections are like mirrors. It your subject is tilting to the right, your reflection will too.  

Step 4: Wait until your painting is totally dry! This might take quite a while. Be patient or use a hair dryer like I did because I have no patients. In this step, I used a light sky color blue and a light yellow for the sky. Because we did a watercolor underwash, we do not need to cover every little inch of paper. That is the wonder of this technique, let some of the watercolors show through…it gives it a mysterious glowing look!

Step 5:Here I added highlights to the trees, also added a bold red color to the foreground. I made zig-zag lines to represent how the grasses really grow in the wild, not perfect, but wild (how we like it).

Step 6: Now the fun part! Just kidding, every part is the fun part!!! In this step I made rocks in the stream using a dark gray for the shadow of the rock, medium gray for the body, and a very light gray for the highlight. In the foreground, I made grasses using browns, light browns, blues, and purples.

Step 7: I added a mat to show you the final look.

I Heard an Owl at the Creek
image 4.5×6.5
off white mat outside dimensions: 8×10

This original pastel painting will be on display and for sale at the LaGrange Art Gallery  May 30 – July 31 2009. You can call them during these dates to purchase with a credit card (708-352-3101), I will pay for shipping.

I hope you enjoyed this step by step pastel demonstration of the little creek at Morton Arboretum where I heard the owl!


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