View Full Version : The Spotlight - May 2014 - Spring 2014

04-30-2014, 08:47 PM
Welcome artists!

Here is a quick recap of what The Spotlight is all about!

The Spotlight is an activity thread for pastel artists of all experience levels working from photos chosen by a monthly host. Most months, the host will choose photos from only one subject, putting that subject into “the spotlight,” so to speak! For example, one month the subject will be painting water, another month will spotlight flowers, etc.

Some months, rather than spotlight a subject, the focus will be on a challenge of some sort. In those cases, we might have a wider variety of photo references, but “the spotlight” will be on the challenge itself.

Since this is a group activity, we can pool our knowledge and resources, and grow as artists in a fun, “no-pressure” atmosphere.

And, remember, no critiques unless specifically asked for.

The intent is to have fun, try new things, experiment, and perhaps most of all, to see what our friends and colleagues are painting from the same reference material!

Please note: The photos this month were taken by me or are from the Reference Image Library. You have permission to use the photos as reference to create your artwork and to sell them and/or exhibit them. The actual photos still retain the copyright of the photographer. So you cannot copy the photo to your blog, for example, without the permission of the photographer, or digitally alter or reproduce the photo for any purpose other than for your personal use, with the exception of crops, digital alterations and posts of these photos within "The Spotlight" thread.

This month’s Spotlight is on…Spring!

Every year, here in the Spotlight, we take a month to celebrate Spring! Where I live, this winter was quite brutal - so Spring is even more welcome than usual! For those in the Southern Hemisphere, my apologies - as Spring in your half of the world is a distant memory and Winter is just around the corner!

For those that have been here the past couple months, you know that we have been putting the Spotlight on painting white and black objects. Well, coincidentally (OK, not so coincidentally!) you will find numerous possibilities to continue to explore the colors and values that can be found in painting black and white!

So, wherever you live, let's celebrate the splendor of Spring!

The references:

Photos by me:

One of the first signs of Spring here in the northeast USA is the arrival of Robins! Here are a couple pics!



So far this Spring, the only flowers that are blooming are the Daffodils! Usually tulips are blooming by now, too - but not this year!


When I was younger, Canada Geese flying overhead was a sign that Spring was near! In fact, as a kid, I remember the family making special trips to a marshy area about an hour from here just to watch the geese as they gathered there. They stayed a week or two before making the final leg of their journey back to Canada. Now, for the past 25 years or so, they live here year around - and are everywhere!


A couple pics from last Spring:



As always, feel free to crop, rearrange or change the references any way you want!

Enjoy Spring 2014!


05-01-2014, 02:47 PM
Yay! Maybe this time I can actually participate throughout the month!

Question: Do I have to use one of your reference photos, or can I choose another that depicts spring?

Looking forward to seeing everyone's work!

05-01-2014, 10:25 PM
Question: Do I have to use one of your reference photos, or can I choose another that depicts spring?

While I think it is more interesting - and more helpful - when we use the references I provide (because we see how other artists handle the same reference), you can, of course, use your own reference. Keep in mind that if using someone else's photo, you should get their permission, unless it is from our reference library.

I look forward to any and all paintings on Spring - regardless of their source!


05-02-2014, 09:56 AM
Okay, well I had selected something else, but I may finish that one, and then do one of these. I'm trying to decide if I'm brave enough to try the Canadian Goose...

05-02-2014, 12:09 PM
Wow! I love these images. Maybe this month I'll actually do at least one of them. I want to. Didn't get the black cat in last time but I definitely want to try. The weather is getting better all the time now.

05-02-2014, 01:22 PM
Hi all, I LOVE that first robin photo! Great composition, I might try that.
Here spring has been going strong for weeks now; our wisteria are already dropping petals and the azaleas are nearly finished. Robert Sloan suggested I'd post a spring painting here which I did a few weeks ago and already showed in the pastels studio:

'Early butterfly'


I'd also like to add a few spring photos I took during the last weeks - enjoy!





05-02-2014, 02:35 PM
Dorothea - Very nice painting and some lovely photos! Spring has come quite a bit earlier for you than it has here in Rochester, NY!


05-02-2014, 03:23 PM
Dorothea, I love that spring butterfly with the light streaming in from behind. Fits this theme so perfectly! I hope you'll try one of the references too, that'd rock.

Here's my first one, a light Conte sketch on Artagain paper:

Spring Robin
9" x 12" (may be cropped in matting)
Color Conte on yellowish gray Artagain paper
Photo reference by DAK723

05-02-2014, 03:51 PM
very nice, Dorothea, like your photos as well...
Robert, I am also working on the robin....love the way you did it. I still have some work to do on mine...
Nice photos, Don....i am also drawn to the robin on the ground...may try that as well...

05-02-2014, 04:49 PM
Robert, Wonderful job on the robin and tree! I like the way you have faded out the tree. It almost looks like a wash or some wet underpainting in the tree. I really like the look of this - is it Conte pastel pencils, crayons or the pastels? And another paper I am unfamiliar with - do you like it? Sorry I am asking so many questions!


05-02-2014, 05:08 PM
Beautiful Butterfly, Dorethea! I Love the way you have the sun reflection off the back of your picture subjects. Subtle, but AMAZING!

I really like your robin too, Robert. For a light sketch it looks pretty wonderful! How do you like the Artagain paper? I've never tried it before.

05-02-2014, 06:07 PM
I too like the way your robin/tree is looking, Robert.

Dorothea, lovely photos. I so envy those of you with seasons. In Florida we have green and green with mold. :D I adore that butterfly piece. I was just admiring it in your other thread.

I'm leaning towards the lone blooming pear tree. I actually like the bloom closeups but I'm intimidated by all those blooms.

05-03-2014, 09:52 AM
Here is my robin, painted on Wallis Belgian mist board, size 8x8":


05-03-2014, 10:18 AM
well done, Dorothea! What pastels did you use?

05-03-2014, 10:36 AM
Thanks, Judibelle! For the shadow areas of the tree trunk TL Essential Greys, for the rest mainly Girault and Unison.

05-03-2014, 12:09 PM
Dorothea, Lovely! Wonderful combination of warms and cools in the tree and the Robin just pops!


05-03-2014, 12:32 PM
Thank YOU, Don for this lovely ref pic!

05-03-2014, 03:52 PM
Beautiful, Dorothea! Very inspiring as well. Love especially the texture on the tree.

05-03-2014, 07:05 PM
I love it, Dorothea! I love how you caught the blues in the shadows, and the texture for the tree is wonderful! Of course, the robin looks bright and cheerfully "spring"-ish! :-D Thank you!

05-04-2014, 01:54 AM
Dorothea' very nice how you did the tree. Its good to see different approaches for one photo. :clap:

05-04-2014, 02:13 AM
Rebecca and Chris, thank you! I love it when a tree trunk is NOT brown and a combination of those wonderful TL neutrals work very well in the shadow areas.

05-04-2014, 10:07 AM
Thank YOU, Don for this lovely ref pic!
Thank you Dorothea! Especially gratifying to hear, since my photo has been deemed "a pretty poor photo to work from" by Jackie Simmonds in your thread in the Studio and Gallery. Luckily, so far, no one else seems to share her opinion! :crossfingers:


05-04-2014, 12:35 PM
Don, don't take it personally! Jackie can be quite blunt when she switches into teacher mode, she admits it herself! :) But she also takes the time to work with the ref pics or the photo of the painting to explain what could be changed or what, in her opinion went wrong. I always appreciate her input, even if I don't always concur:wink2: For me the photo worked very well, I should perhaps have thought longer about how to adapt it for the painting. That tree trunk is very straight!

05-05-2014, 06:08 PM
Dorothea, love your butterfly and robin, great textures and colors in the bark!

Robert, nice composition and rendering of the robin!


I thought I'd do a fast and loose daffodil study. This was on a white 22x35cm Pastelmat and if I had it to do over I'd not of put any under painting under the petals. Thought I'd do an overlap and those darks just wouldn't cover (no suprise really).

05-05-2014, 08:26 PM
So very pretty! I really like the variety of yellows you used in the centers of the flowers.

Yes, don't we always learn something new with every picture! :-D

05-05-2014, 10:53 PM
Facet_Rough, I like your painting! I think you have caught the essence very well! And I think the hint of underpainting showing through actually works as it makes the petals seem translucent (which I think they actually are)!


05-06-2014, 07:12 AM
Serendipity! Thanks Don and Pure, I thought on what you said Don and it made sense to try to make the petals look thinner so that the under painting showing made sense. So, I used a few gray tones to "thin" down the white petals.


Did it make a noticeable difference?

C&C welcome!


05-06-2014, 08:17 AM
Beautiful rendering, Steve...Love the look of the petals...

05-06-2014, 09:21 AM
Wow! It looks great! That's a nice little tid-bit to remember. The thinness of the petals would make them seem a little more transparent.

Great job, Steven!

05-06-2014, 12:21 PM
Steven, I guess it is a question as how transparent or translucent you want the petals to look. They do look more transparent now, but perhaps a tad too much (just my opinion, of course). I hate to say, it, but to me anyway, I liked the 1st version better - although the difference is small. In the 1st version, the colors that are visible through the petals are there in the background - which gives a greater color harmony and unity to the piece - and those colors would be the ones that "show" through.

Keep in mind, I am certainly no expert on painting transparent or translucent things! This may be the first time I've really thought about it!

All-in-all, the painting is very well done - either way!


05-06-2014, 12:56 PM
Thanks Don. Spring is a wonderful subject. Too many choices!
Robert, I love your very soft touch with your robin.
Dorothea, you're butterfly is lovely.
I'm cheating a bit on the spring theme, Don. I hope you don't mind but my sea uses many spring colors. It's been in the gallery. I hope it's ok to post here too. I would really like a hard critique. I won't learn without it. Thanks guys. You are my teachers. Jay

I did rework the painting.

05-06-2014, 01:21 PM
Somehow I missed a whole page of posts.
Rough Facet, I really like your first post of daffodils the best. So fresh and lovely.
I forgot to say that my Spring Storm Sea is 12" x 16" on Brown (??) MT. (I use the brown for experiments because I don't like it.) The pastels are mostly Terry Ludwigs because I was trying to learn how to use those darks. Powerful tools. As I type this, I see that my horizon is slanted! Ah, art!

Don..you're so generous with your time with these spotlights and providing lovely photos for us and teaching. I hope you know how much we appreciate you. You are always patient with us.

05-06-2014, 02:47 PM
Thanks for the comments all! Don, I saw the trade off too. My instincts were to leave it, but as an exercise I wanted to see where another color combination would take me, I've only painted a couple flowers so far and I love the spot light for encouraging me to try new things!

Jay, we posted near the same time I think so I'll say on the edit I really love your ocean scene!

05-06-2014, 03:52 PM
Jay, Thanks for the nice comments.

Your sea painting is very nicely done! You have definitely caught the essence of the turbulent waves. Your dark sky adds to the dark, stormy mood of the piece. That's my critique!


05-06-2014, 04:17 PM
Thank you, Facet Rough. (I wish I knew your name)
Thank you Don. Now I'm happy. I'll sign and frame then
And I'll still do one do the spring flings.
I feel so comfortable here in the spotlight. Among friends!

05-06-2014, 05:18 PM
Great stormy sea, Jay! You did a great job manipulating those colors both in the water and the sky!

05-06-2014, 07:48 PM
Ahhh, sorry Jay thought I had set the signature block prior to this

05-07-2014, 09:38 AM
Dorothea, love the robin and the texture of the bark. Too many of my trees look as though they have been skinned.
Steven, your sea is so powerful. Great job.
Jay, the daffodils definitely evoke spring. Think I'd cast my vote for the first one, too.
Beautiful "spring flings" by all!

05-07-2014, 02:24 PM
Don ...thank you for another set of beautiful reference pics.....love the flowers and birdies.....

Robert...lovely painting of the robin....

dorothea....the bird painting is amazing...so much to learn from the way you have painted the texture of the bark....thanks for sharing your spring pics with us....I hope to paint the last one....

facet_rough....very nice painting of your daffodils....love your painting of the sea and the colourful waves.....

I cant believe I finished a painting in the first week itself.....hope I don't go back to hibernating....this one is on 11x14 la carte sennelier....done with Rembrandts and senneliers.....c&c welcome....



05-07-2014, 04:55 PM
Ok, Steven and I are sharing credit for the stormy sea. (Smile). Thank you to all.

Pashanti I love your flowers. I like that you varied each one by size and color. Lovley.

05-07-2014, 05:42 PM
Sorry Jay......I goofed up on that one.....I love your painting...especially the colours in the waves....


05-08-2014, 10:41 AM
No problem Prashanti. See, in the prior post I spelled your name wrong!! It's all good here at Wet Canvas especially in the Spotlight.

05-08-2014, 10:50 AM
Wow! Beautiful job, Prashanti!

I love how you pulled the blue into the petals and the pink into the sky, wonderful manipulation of colors! :-D

PLEASE don't go back into hibernating! I want to see more from you!

05-08-2014, 12:30 PM
Thank you keepingpure for your kind comments... I visited your etsy shop... Lovely stuff there... You are soo talented....


05-08-2014, 12:45 PM
Prashanti, Very lovely painting! I, too, love those pinks and blues!


05-08-2014, 03:52 PM
Thank you so much for liking my painting Don...much credit goes to your wonderful lesson on seeing colour in white......I learn so much here on Spotlight....


05-09-2014, 12:59 PM
Prashanti, wonderful use of color. This could have been used in the "white" spotlight.:)

05-10-2014, 06:35 PM
Don, I did blend out the tree and not the robin to get that soft wash look on mine. I used my color Conte set for it since it was a sketch, but they blend very easily and one thing I always liked was the way the bright colors mix when I blend or scumble them. The soft wash look was deliberate once I let the sketch trail off and I developed it a little more than I first intended because I liked how it was building up.

Dorothea, your robin is so rich and painterly. I love the marks you made and the bark texture, the beautiful way you handled the robin’s breast feathers. Gorgeous details on his face too!

Steven, your daffodils are great. I like the way they feel so luminous. They jump out at me and the soft background really makes them pop. Nice subtle light colors in the white give it gorgeous texture. Your changes are definitely different, the petals seem thinner.

Spring storm at sea, Jay! I love that foam and the dark wild sky. It makes sense to me though as spring sometimes does bring wild winds and thunderstorms! Wonderful opalescent foam and you’ve got good dramatic values.

Prashanti, your cherry blossoms are so bright and lively! I like the sky with those hints of pink clouds and the brilliant flowers brighter than the light clouds. Your palette is glorious, it’s a delight to see how you handle the details of the flowers and the striking darkness of leaves and stems. Your pink and blue with the clear strong greens reminds me of spiritual paintings while the varied, wind-tossed blossoms break any sense of them being stylized. Gorgeous mood to this flower painting.

Yep. I read through everything and love what everyone's doing. I've got to do another one this month, from one of these references or from my own since I got some good rose garden photos with my new camera last Wednesday.

05-10-2014, 06:50 PM
Oh. Artagain paper. It's a lot like the smooth side of Canson Mi-Tientes but all the colors in the pad had the speckled-fibers appearance of the Moonstone color in Mi-Tientes, which was what drew me to get the pad. I got it just as an alternative but was delighted with that effect, the few darker fibers really make the paper surface lively.

It's a good non-sanded paper and works well for pastels, better than drawing paper, not better than M-T but no worse than it either.

05-10-2014, 08:07 PM
Robert, Thanks for the descriptions of your method and the paper!


05-18-2014, 03:47 PM
Again very nice photos, thank you Don!

I tried the Daffodils (painting white :wink2:), but they are not so transparent and bright as the other ones. C + C are very welcome. Its Pastelcard 24 x 32 cm.


05-19-2014, 08:37 AM
Chris, Very nice painting of the daffodils! Very well done!


05-20-2014, 03:49 PM
Beautiful daffodils painting, Chris! I love it. If you want the daffodils to seem brighter, heighten the values? Deepen the shadows on them a bit and their bright bits wil seem brighter and they'll seem lighter, it's an odd thing but something I do to both paintings and photos. That and darkening the deep values in general, just, more contrast. You can test that on the image with Gimp or Photoshop too to see if you like the effect before making any changes.

I started on the cherry or apple blossoms, not sure which they are, the tree blossoms. THis is the underpainting in negative shapes, just the sky background around them. I omitted the blurred more distant clusters for simplicity in the painting but might bring some in later in the final stages depending on how it looks.


05-21-2014, 10:35 AM
Started playing with my Unison half sticks on it, loosely, not trying for detailed accuracy but just blocking in values and more or less color. The warm undertone of the paper and cool lights are working neat. So far it's sort of recognizable but I may want to pick up the values a bit.The background looks flat and dull compared to the part that's painterly so that may be what I do next, work over that underpainting.

That and start using more tints in the white flowers layering them. I wanted them to have a shimmery gray that's the same in values but many complementary tints.


I got really loose on this and am liking the results even at this stage. I'm just goofing around on this one, not following a particular method - maybe the Wolf Kahn article inspired me. Just sort of following it intuitively.

05-21-2014, 10:56 AM
Looking good so far, Robert! I've pulled up a chair and am eagerly waiting for the next update!


05-21-2014, 11:02 AM
And did a bit more on it, played with livening up the background over the underpainting. I think I want to let it sit and rest for a while, will give it another session later. It's become a little lower in contrast but I like how the different colors are interacting and am debating whether it needs a lot more layering to be more refined, or whether I like the rough texture and occasional haloing and will just be adding final details.

Just weighing that now, also whether to make the background a gradient or not. Having loads of fun with the Unisons.


Color is fairly true on this but a little warmer to the left because that's where an indoor light is, while cool sunlight is coming in from the right and top.

I really need to work on the leaves, in the photo they're a dark contrast like the centers. The centers of course need lots more work and are more indicated than done. Whether I crisp some edges comes into it too, there's places I don't have hard edges and want them. Others I might soften edges with background color especially toward the bottom.

Just need to relax and think about this before proceeding. Suggestions welcome! I'm working looser on it than I usually do on florals, so please let me know if that's working.

05-21-2014, 11:18 AM
This is also when I put it on the drawing board way across the room to look at it and see how it looks as a whole instead of close up under my eyes.

The bigger range of Unisons half sticks is really helping with it. I think I want to darken the background slightly, make the sky a little deeper and maybe more toward the blue-greens where the violet-cast blue and the blue-green dance so well together.

The multiple tints in the flowers is working from over here, but I've got areas of bare paper that irritate me and once center is jutting out as too high contrast with hard strokes of dark magenta on bare paper, a haloed center not in a good position. But I like the eye path, the way it laid out works as long as I soften up the bottom edge a bit. Where to soften edges is on my mind.

Thank you for your comment, Don! I'm definitely having fun with this - just need to do something with the greens, they're not right. They need to be stronger and maybe browner, more value contrast and less hue brightness. The background might not be too light so much as the stems too light compared to them and the strong dark red centers would balance them well. Maybe if I used that magenta with the green and then green over it again, to mute the green but strengthen value?

Many thoughts, this is a rumination stage.

05-21-2014, 11:58 AM
Looking good, Rob! Beautiful 'flow' to the blossoms....can't wait to see it finished.

Chris, your daffs are lovely. Nice job!

05-22-2014, 12:21 PM
Thank you Don, Robert and Judibelle for your nice comments.

Maybe I will try your tip Robert on Gimp, but I think I will leave the painting like it is, it is a just an exercise and I have already spent too much time on it. But thanks for your suggestion. I looked at the two photos of the daffodils and my painting side by side on the computer and I can see what you meant about the contrast.

05-23-2014, 02:28 AM
Chris I really like your daffodils, the blue/greens in the fronds are a nice backdrop to the petals!

Robert I like where you are going with yours, *sets up a chair next to Don* the green magenta layering sounds like a good approach. The end of the month is getting away from me; I was thinking of trying that one but I think I'll run out of time. I've been eyeing that new 120 1/2 stick assortment from Unison too. From your comments it sounds as if you are happy with the color selection for the set, any critiques on it Robert?

05-23-2014, 02:53 PM
Chris, I love your daffodils.

Robert, it's great how your flowers seems transparent. Nice design too

I wanted to join you all but I've been busy revising the "hungry sky" painting I have in the gallery. I finally pit it to bed. Maybe I'll try to squeak out a tiny spring picture next week.

Good work, everyone.


05-23-2014, 03:51 PM
Purr thanks for the comments!

Steven, I love that set. No critiques on it because it is perfect in itself, beautifully balanced around the spectrum with a nicer range of neutrals too. Three grays value ranges now, warm neutral and cool, more browns, blue green tints range - if they expanded it any more they don't have a box large enough. I like it that they keep all their boxes the same exterior size so it can go in the aluminum case from my fancy 72 color set or two big sets go in the wooden box that they make.

Any more Unisons and I will need to buy the full range color chart with swatches from Dakota to choose additional colors. I like the way that works. There isn't anything missing from it, there's the full spectrum in values arrangements. I think if they came out with a larger half sticks set it would start turning up in two boxes. Very good value and I don't know how long the sale is but it's a good sale.

05-26-2014, 12:53 AM
Finished! I didn't mess with the petals and background at all. The centers and reworking the stems and leaves were enough. All with the Unisons including the small details and sharp lines. I liked its looseness and lightness and kept the broken color where I hadn't fully covered the cream paper.

Promise of Fruit
9" x 12"
Hard pastels and Unison pastels on cream Canson Mi-Tientes smooth side
photo by DAK720 for May 2014 Spotlight

I still don't know if these are apple or cherry blossoms or what but they're fruit blossoms and gorgeous. Love it. Sorry about the lighting on the photo, it's not darker to the left, that's just today's sunlight affecting it. Though it's intriguing and I might do something like that sometime.

05-26-2014, 10:09 AM
Great job, Robert! Lovely painting!


05-26-2014, 01:27 PM
Nice work Robert. Id like to try that one myself.


05-26-2014, 08:26 PM
Beautiful, Robert

05-27-2014, 02:57 PM
Don's Cherry Blossoms, my first pastel flowers.

Thank you for the photo, Don. Of course, comments and criticism always, always welcome. (Just got this in under the wire!!) ;) :lol:

05-27-2014, 02:58 PM
I forgot to say it's 9.5 x 12.5 on back of MT done with a pan pastel tool and T L pastels, plus one white Pan.

05-27-2014, 06:45 PM
Jay, yours is fantastic and so painterly. I love the way you pushed some of the flowers back, I didn't really do that as successfully in mine and that's helped me think about what to do next time. Your painting has such beautiful depth. Lovely technique and you did take the challenge of the out of focus background clusters so perfectly, the variations in the background are exciting when I look at them but definitely just supporting the main attraction. Well done!

05-27-2014, 09:08 PM
Jay, Very nicely done in so many ways! Robert has summed it up well!


05-27-2014, 09:10 PM
Thank you Robert. Was the first time I used a pan pastel tool. Helped to get into the tight spaces between the flowers. I can't wait for the next spotlight.

Thanks again for commenting. Jay

05-28-2014, 08:18 AM
Beautifully done, Jay....

05-28-2014, 09:32 AM
Thank you Judi. It was fun and less dusty too. And I worked flat on the table. Lots of firsts here with this painting. I'm so happy to learn something new.

Thanks again, Jay

05-28-2014, 02:37 PM
Robert thanks for the info on the 1/2 sticks (ordered the set today) and lovely finish to your blossoms!

Jay great job on your blossoms! The back ground feels like it's in the process of creation, so fresh! Great decision to support your foreground in that manner, well done!

05-29-2014, 07:15 AM
Thanks Steven.

Where is the sale on those unisons? I keep meaning to ask. I don't think Robert mentioned where he bought them.


05-31-2014, 04:53 PM
Jay, I got the Unison 1/2 stick set at Jerry's and I know Dakota has them too. Since it's a new offering the ones I found are similarly priced so I used the set as a backbone for the 30% discount on other items, paper etc... now I'm waiting for the snail they use to truck them cross country to arrive....

05-31-2014, 05:39 PM
Thanks Steven. I was getting so many emails from Jerry's that I opted out of their mail. I'll go take a peak at the goodies. Thanks.