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.


  1. Just beautiful! And it’s so amazing to see how you develop the scene and bring it to life, with such depth and feeling. About how long does it take to do a painting like this?

  2. Severny: Thanks so much! I appreciate it šŸ™‚

    Drowsey: Thank you, I love showing the steps…to encourage everyone to try it out!

    Seeing Anew: Thank you! This painting took me 6 hours to complete. I’m impatient, so I like to finish it in one day, stopping only to eat. I’m afraid if I take a break and not finish until the next day, I will lose the “flow” and ruin it later…that’s why I complete it in one day when I’m most excited about the subject. Thanks for asking!

  3. I always enjoy your “step-by-step” posts. BTW, I CAN hear thunder…It’s raining on & off here today, but I had to chuckle when I got to that part of your post. šŸ˜‰

  4. Fine Life: Thanks so much! And thanks for visiting too šŸ™‚

    Lana: You’re such a lucky ducky!!!!! Sent some storms my way please, it’s been too dry around here. OH, what I wouldn’t do to hear some rumbling thunder right now…….

  5. I am so glad to find your blog! I found it very inspiring! I would love to link your blog to mine- if that would be okay with you! Thanks!!

    1. Belinda: Thanks for visiting! Sure you can link, that’s very nice of you. It looks like you are just starting your site, I’m excited to see your work…good luck!

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