Monthly Archives: August 2009

Let’s Paint Storm Over Orland Grasslands!

Do you remember a few days ago when I caught an awesome picture of a passing storm over the Orland Grasslands? Well, because I love it so much and because I want to save that moment forever…Let’s have fun by painting it!

Here is our reference picture:

Holy Lovely-ness! Pinch me, was this for real? When I took this photo I was facing south. The roll of clouds was actually not coming at me but moving east at a high speed. It was moving sideways. I was in awe.
Here we go…

Step 1: This is going to be a 16×20 pastel painting with a watercolor underwash. I am using Ampersand’s pastelbord in sand. I like to do a heavy wet underwash and I do not want to worry about buckling paper. You never have to worry about buckling with pastelbord. In this step I sketched a rough drawing with vine charcoal while looking at my reference photo on top.

Step 2: Get your watercolors ready so you don’t have to keep mixing while painting. I’m never exact about colors because eventually they will be mostly covered up, so I don’t care. Here I have indigo, cerulean blue, sap green, and indigo + alizarin to make purple.

Kitty peaks from under my easel. She wants to learn too.

Step 2b: Here I painted some basic shapes. 80% of this will be covered up with pastels so don’t worry about being perfect or matching colors. I just need a road map.

Step 3: When completely dry (you can tell because the board will not feel cold), Start from the top down. With Unison pastels I painted the sky, remembering to make shadow under the storm cloud and have contrast in sky next to the top of the cloud. The distant trees are a darker blue/purple mixture with a tad green on top.

Step 4: I am starting to fill in the field. Fields are hard to paint because there are so many different colors the eye ignores in real life. If you paint a billion different colors however, it looks like a mess. You have to find a happy medium…as many things in life.

This is a green sample I bought from Dakota Pastels. I like it because I can sample the different pastel brands before purchasing them (pastels are expensive!!!). Plus, I knew I would need green for summer paintings. Just don’t use every single color in one painting though, that would be too much!

Step 5: Next, I took a dark green and filled in some weed spots. The best secret I can give you is contrast, contrast, contrast. If you don’t establish contrast your painting will be flat.
I can’t really tell you how I knew where to put some green and where to put some brown and where to put some rusty colors. You just look at the photo and do what feels right. If it looks wrong, no worries, just cover it up and start again.
The tree is a mixture of dark blue for the darkest part, purple for some shadow, medium green for leaves, and light green for highlight of leaves.

Step 6: Next I filled in the yellow wildflowers and a few blue chicory wildflowers as well. I also defined some weed leaves by painting in some lighter green highlights.

Storm Over the Orland Grasslands - Pastel

Step 7 Final: Here it is! Just a few more popping colors in the foreground of the field and maybe a few more yellow wildflowers. The painting looks just like I remember it…can you hear a soft rumble of thunder?

“Storm Over the Orland Grasslands”
wood frame, no mat

Click here to purchase, it will bring you to the available pastel paintings for sale site.

I hope you enjoyed this step by step demonstration on how to paint a field with a storm. I also hope you got a little excited about nature, just like I did.


Parking Lot Tree Sketch

A sketch from a parking lot? What’s so wonderful about that?

Parking Lot Tree Sketch - Watercolor

Parking Lot Tree Sketch - Watercolor

Nothing. Unless you make it special.
What I loved about this tree is that it is crooked. I am crooked so much of the time, that I can identify with this poor tree. It will work itself out as it grows and gains experience, as we all do. No worries.

Here is what I was looking at:

To make it special, you need to eliminate the cars (if you want to, heck, I don’t know, maybe you love cars…then leave them in). Making it special means tailoring the sketch to your own specifications.

I loved the rainy clouds behind the tree and the tree’s crooked features. That’s the story I want to tell.

I am crooked in the midst of storms, but will endure with God’s help and straighten out.

Tell whatever story you like. Just tell it!

Lake Katherine and Heron Sketch

I try to take my sketching supplies where ever I go. I have a canvas bag that I keep in the car. I don’t always have time, nor do I feel like painting everyday, but it’s there just in case.

On a quick visit to Lake Katherine in Palos Heights, I felt the need…

Lake Katherine and GB Heron - Watercolor

I sketched this scene before the heron, as if on queue, landed right in the most perfect spot. How delighted I was to include him.

Here is what I was looking at:

Sometimes all that “green” can be overwhelming. Just pick out a few points of interest that you just can’t exclude. Just enough to tell a story, but not too much to confuse or look like a mess. Mr. Heron was important. He needed to be the main attraction, the single pine tree was next, then the hill, finally a few trees in the back. That’s all.

Nice and simple.

Storm Over Orland Grasslands

Check out the gorgeous site at the Orland Grasslands this morning…

Holy cow! What excitement! What beauty!!!

I wonder what type of cloud this is?  The weather was not threatening enough for a wall cloud or shelf cloud, actually this was at the end of a passing system.

I’m all over this picture as a future paining! Soon, very soon!
Oh how I love a disturbance in the air!

Backlit Pine Sketch

Backlit Pine Sketch - Watercolor

At 2:30pm, under a hot sun, in the midst of 83°F temperatures, this is what I was looking at. A gentle breeze accompanied me as I tried to replicate this wonderful pine.

What’s so special about a stupid pine tree? Why, let me tell you…

The sun blared behind the pine. Did you ever see a portrait where the photographer sets up a light behind the person and it seems as if the outer rim of their hair is glowing? Well, that’s how the pine was posing. God set the light and I painted the portrait.
Tips of the needles were on fire. Glowing a shimmery yellow. I captured a moment.

Here is my reference photo when the sun was behind the clouds…

Why don’t you try to capture a moment too?