Pastel Painting: Woodland Waltz


If my regular blog followers have recognized that my blogging has become rather sparse, I blame it on this painting, "Woodland Waltz." It has absorbed my time.


Woodland Waltz is 21x27 and painting with soft pastel (and underpainting) an Uart grade 400 sanded paper. Uart has a wonderful tooth that grabs many layers of pastel and is a versatile surface that is very forgiving of wet underpainting techniques such as watercolor and acrylic.

Woodland Waltz was inspired by the following reference painting. The sky was overcast that November day. The artist should use reference photos carefully. Photos will darken shade and wash-our bright skies.

You will notice that in the final version of the painting, I introduced sunlight (and many clouds) into the landscape. As reference photos go, I utilize them through perhaps 50% of the painting. At that point, I often refrain from looking at my reference photos, relying instead on my imagination and the key features of the scene that I desire to emphasize.


The activity of painting is THE most enjoyable part of being an artist. You would think that my background in business would compel me to efficiently produce painting after painting with the goal to sell them. Surely that goal is part of my practice, providing a variety of paintings and several price points through Etsy, Daily Paintworks and Zatista. Click here for purchase information (you know I had to add that link)!

But it is the ACT of painting that is most enjoyable. Typically my painting day starts around 5:00-5:30 am with classical music playing and hot coffee and breakfast at my side. The wonderful feeling of letting my mind wander to grab concepts of the landscape and bring them to life on the canvas is one of the best time of the day for me.

The original idea of Woodland Waltz was to convey a complicated woodland scene (not unlike my paintings "Ski Tracks" and "Birch Ballet"), comprising a rather bland composition with a bunch of naked winter trees, and to give it new life.

The two birch trees appear to be dancing (at least flirting) with each other. The foreground tree with some type of tree blight shines and appears to "light up." The sky and Lake Superior (at the horizon) convey drama as well as mystery: where does the lake end and the sky begin?

These are the thoughts that go through the artist's head while creating a landscape painting.

Here are a few techniques to call out that I applied in Woodland Waltz (and landscape paintings in general):

Edges of light.

One of the techniques I use deals with edges of objects in the landscape and the interplay with dark and light. Notice the portion of detail with the trees below. You will see that most light portions of the tree correspond to a darker portion in the background, and vice versa. This technique helps to build contrast and spacial distance between the objects and also reflects how our eyes react to bright light. Notice that trees look darker toward the top as they contrast with a bright sky. You can see that if you step outside on a sunny day at glance toward the tree tops.


Many Colors in One Value

As I noted on a recent blog, I like to populate similar values (light areas and dark shady areas) with a cornucopia of color. Pastels allow the artist to quickly grab a different color to toss in the mix. Notice the variety of blue, orange, green, rust, brown, gray, ochre in the tree trunk detail and the ground. When you step back and observe the painting as a whole, these all "come together" and add depth to the landscape.


I enjoy working on a large canvas as it provides the opportunity to build more and more detail and depth.

This weekend I will be carting a bunch of fabulous pastel paintings from local artist and delivering them to the Holland Area Arts Council in Holland, Michigan, for the Great Lakes Pastel Society's National Exhibit. My painting "Wind Chill" will be among the exhibited paintings. The exhibit runs from May 18 to July 7. Hope you can make it!

#UpperPeninsulaMichigan #GreatLakesPastelSociety