View Full Version : Ramah Lake - Step-by-Step

11-09-2005, 05:32 PM
I finished a 19"x25" painting today. I used reference photos plus a plein air piece. I thought you all might enjoy seeing the steps. Comments welcome!- Michael







And the finished piece:


Kathryn Day
11-09-2005, 07:14 PM
Beautiful painting! Thanks for doing the WIP. You were in my neck of the woods. I live in Gallup, not far from Ramah. The atmosphere in the painting seems just perfect for the area. WIPS are so helpful to those of us in the early stages of learning.

11-09-2005, 07:41 PM
Michael, really nice!!
Are those birds that are flying at an angle from the top right of the rocks in the sky?
Beautiful greenery in the water.

11-09-2005, 07:57 PM
<ahem> Yes, Cindy, those would be birds -- added with a stick of vine charcoal, which gives them a nice, soft look. (Which you could see better in a close-up.) There is one more bird in another spot, but I won't give a prize for finding it. :) I added the birds just to give the scene a little more "presence."

Kathy - Howdy, neighbor! I used to live in the Zuni Mountains, not too far from El Morro, and now I live down near Cloudcroft. The plein air sketch, which this painting is based, on I did during the Plein Air New Mexico paint-out in August. It was dawn at Ramah Lake, and a beautiful time.

Thanks for the kind words!

Anyone think the green in the water is too, er, plentiful? Does it cover too large an area -- especially near the rocks -- and fight for attention?

11-09-2005, 08:05 PM
Anyone think the green in the water is too, er, plentiful? Does it cover too large an area -- especially near the rocks -- and fight for attention?

I don't think it fights. I didn't see that at all. I think it gives the rocks a good balance because they're pretty strong on their own. I like the line the greenery has in the water, nicely flowing back and to the sides.
I actually don't know what the green is, I just like it. Is it plantlife? Doesn't matter if it's just a color added to the water, it just works.
The lit sky to the right of the horizontal left rocks is a beautiful area.

11-10-2005, 07:07 AM
Beautiful colours Michael, I really like the green! ( I seem to like a lot of green at the moment...who would have thought!) Thanks so much for doing it as a WIP it is a great help for a beginner like me to see the stages you go through to get such a lovely piece of work!

11-10-2005, 08:21 AM
Alas, but the green is pond scum...duckweed. But the color was just incredibly vivid that mornng and was a perfect complement to the red rocks.

Thanks, all!

More info on the process. I started with the "Belgian Mist" version of the Wallis Sanded Paper, because my plein air sketch used this, and the little bits of brown/gray paper popping looked somewhat like a rock color. Next, I used vine charcoal to establish the composition, using the "rule of thirds". (That window rock and the bright sky light are in a good spot.) This composition was based on a thumbnail sketch I took an hour to create.

Next, I did a COLOR thumbnail sketch to figure out my basic palette. I used three values of a purple-violet for the underpainting (you can see that in one of the steps) and followed this with "local color" in the same values. I used a dark green and blue and red for the darks; mid-value blues, cool greens for the mid-values; and kept the light cool violet for the lights, plus a bit of light blue and light creamy yellow.

The rest was just refining these colors as I worked.

11-11-2005, 11:24 PM
Thanks so much for the WIP photos, a lovely lovely scene. Funny your middle pictures, say the third and fourth ones down, look sort of like many of my pics do as they are progessing, but my finished images are nothing like yours, LOL. I think it's a gorgeous scene, and I like the lighting.

Deborah Secor
11-11-2005, 11:53 PM
Whoo hoo! Mmmm, mmmmmmm. One might think you had been hanging out with some famous artists... :D

Okay, I love the green BUT I think it stays too bright too far down into the composition, creating a slight visual detraction for me. It works until it gets to the edge of the reflection of the top of the cliff, but those two bands of lighter green over the dark red are too-too.... So, I'd just call it a washout. Toss it out over my way, will you? :wink2:


11-12-2005, 06:56 AM
Hi, Deborah! You're probably right re the distraction. If I cover the bottom half of the painting, the green works fine...but if I don't, the revealed portion does pull my eye. I'll do a "tweak" on it today and post a new picture when done. (I bow to the expertise of one of my first teachers!)

11-12-2005, 10:19 AM
By the way, I've posted the full demo -- plus commentary and shots of the palette used, etc. -- on my web site:


Deborah Secor
11-12-2005, 12:13 PM
Great demo on your web site! Love having more step-by-step images, too, and your descriptions are excellent--but that apron is TOO clean! Michael, it's a gorgeous painting!


11-12-2005, 01:54 PM
That's just my "show" apron. :)

I've made some tweaks, and here is the final painting:


Paula Ford
11-12-2005, 02:02 PM
WOW, I love this wip! It really turned out to be a gorgeous painting. Thank you!

Visited your website. Your work is exquisite!!


Deborah Secor
11-12-2005, 02:09 PM
YES! Now you have it. Ahhhh...so soothing. Thanks, I needed that.


11-12-2005, 03:13 PM
Thanks, guys! Okay, now I'm off to take slides of it and enter it in something. ;)

Pinecone Conniff
11-12-2005, 06:51 PM
I am intrigued by the stripes in the rocks! :cool:
Luminous painting of what must be an awesome place! :clap:

11-13-2005, 07:43 AM
Those stripes are really there and look just like that. (The reference photo doesn't show them clearly enough.) It's a weird wedding-cake look.

11-13-2005, 01:39 PM
Love the subtle colors and the reflections you've captured in the water.... It's got a mystical effect.

Best of luck in your show entry - let us know how it goes.


11-13-2005, 05:11 PM
Thanks, Barbara. I've got a few more of these small-to-big paintings to do, and from them I'll pick the showpieces.