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Whispering Creepy Trees

This summer I ventured through a nature preserve near Toledo, OH. It was a hazy and humid mid-afternoon in June. Strolling with my camera along a path, I came across this scene of wispy trees angling toward the sunlight.

Coincidentally, this morning, I grabbed a book by Elizabeth Mowry, "Paint the Seasons in Pastel."

Elizabeth Mowry was a renowned landscape pastelist who passed away in 2020. Flipping through the pages of her book, I found images that evoked the above scene. Even her website (click here) shows the ethereal, atmospheric effects that the photo conveys.

To help create that soft, atmospheric effect, I chose to do a watercolor underpainting with a purple hue, depicting the values of the scene:

Purple offers a wonderful soft contrast to green. Richard McKinley, President of the International Association of Pastel Societies, favors that purple underpainting for greenery and instructs his students about this approach.

The pastel painting is 9x12 and comprises the purple watercolor underpainting as well as an alcohol wash of the darker areas in pastel:

The tricky part of a painting like this is that there is a ton of green! Mixing up the base of the green with purples, blues and ochres help to reduce the monotony of the greens. I chose to avoid detail in the foreground to keep the focus on the wispy trees and the highlighted path.

I'll make some additional highlights and a few more details of this atmospheric vista. In honor of Elizabeth Mowry's seasons, I plan to visit this spot in the Fall, Winter and Spring to create three more pastel paintings of this scene.

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