View Full Version : Brachina Gorge WIP

Susan Borgas
05-05-2006, 01:58 AM
Hope I don’t bore you with another WIP but here we go again.:p C & C of cause is very welcome. :)

This painting will be of the Central Flinders area of South Australia.

Burgundy AS Colourfix Paper
475 x 330mm

As you can see I have done my tonal map to help guide me plus this also helps me to get to know the piece that I am going to work on.


I picked out the main areas that is going to have the lightest lights on the tree trunks and stones.

I worked on the background mountains that may need some adjusting but for now will be left alone until more progress is made over the paper.

Some of the darks in the tree canopies were put in place and worked the sky around these areas.

I did blend the sky but ever so lightly using my little finger so that light pressure was applied. If I applied too much pressure, the tone of the burgundy paper would make some of the sky look dirty from pastel becoming thin and transparent.

Thanks for looking.


05-05-2006, 06:54 AM
Interesting Susan, that you put the lights in first..is this just a thin layer to keep you focused?

05-05-2006, 06:59 AM
love that background Susan. Funnily enough I actually work in a similar way with my seascapes! I find laying in the sky gives me a better key to work on everything else.

Piper Ballou
05-05-2006, 08:57 AM
Susan, I love your WIPs and I am always happy to see them. thanks

Susan Borgas
05-06-2006, 01:40 AM
Not feeling crash hot today as I have spent most of it in bed with a migraine. That plus getting over the Flu I haven’t any progress work to post but did won’t to pop in and answer any questions that may have been added to this thread.

Tres yes it is just a thin layer which does keep my focused with light direction. The first time I ever saw an artist do this; the painting already to me had impact. It was also a pastel. I find it helps me to remember what the focal point is going to be, which in this case will be the large tree trunk.

Leigh a high percentage of my landscape paintings are started with laying in and finishing the sky first along with the distant hills. I am not sure if it is from the days that I used to make and sell detailed appliquťd garments. I was often told the pictures made from material looked 3D when in fact they were flat. I would build up from the background forward in the same way I do most of my paintings. For me it works as you have found out it does for you when working in a similar way.

Piper thanks.

Bhavana Vijay
05-06-2006, 10:26 AM
Susan, i love your WIPs and i am so glad you have started another. Your painting is looking wonderful so far. I hope you are feeling better soon!

05-06-2006, 02:54 PM
looking good so far, can't wait to see more. james

05-06-2006, 06:16 PM
This is looking great. I love the hills in the background. The leaves on the trees look very realistic.

Susan Borgas
05-08-2006, 02:31 AM
Thanks I am feeling much better today Bhavana.

Thanks to you all for your encouragement.

I worked on the middle ground to establish the eucalyptus gum trees as well as some of the native shrubs that grow in profusion in this area. There is a wealth of different varieties of vegetation in this area which allows me to have some fun with colour.

The tree in the foreground will have foliage hang down in front of the middle ground trees on the left hand side yet. It will help to connect the two areas together at the same time pushing the background further back. Well this is the general idea of it anyway.

I am uncertain of the road that comes in at the right. It is part of the creek bed as well. The creek runs across the road to the right, not with the road. The road heads off into the distance behind the tree and can’t help but feel it causes some confuses. I am happy to consider any ideas that are offered. I may brush this area off and think a bit more about the placement of the tonal values. Maybe even drop the right hand side down a bit to see what happens. Gosh I might even end up with vegetation there yet.

As you can see I have started placing some marks on the foreground tree. I decided to call it quits for now as I feel I need to feel fresher for the next stage, which a hit of caffeine isn’t helping.

So until tomorrow, cheers! :)


05-08-2006, 07:09 AM
looking great as usual, Susan..Hope you are feeling better today..

05-08-2006, 07:53 AM
Susan the sense of distance in your work is fantastic!! as im new to this i was just wondering what a tonal map is i noticed you said that you were using one?
Thanks Naomi

Susan Borgas
05-08-2006, 08:33 PM
Tres I am feeling a heck of a lot better to what I was. Thanks for asking.

Naomi what I do is make a drawing of the scene that I am going to paint on a piece of paper. Then using a range of tones from black to white I paint this drawing with watercolour. The tonal values took me about ten minutes to put in place on this drawing. It helps me to work through any problems before starting on my major work. (well this is the general idea but doesn't always work for me but I am getting better :rolleyes:). Anyway it helps to sort out the tonal values providing a base from which to build up the painting. It makes the next step a lot easier for me and artist that use this method.

The Willochra Creek, Melrose WIP (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=338624&highlight=willochra+creek) is a good example of using a tonal map to see what wonít and will work. There was a tree slap bang in the centre that I removed as I could see that it wasnít going to work. I didnít notice this with just line drawing ( I should have already seen the problem at the drawing stage) but could see it on my tonal map. It saved me removing the tree after I had painted it in pastel. Hope this long winded explanation helps. :)

05-08-2006, 08:45 PM
Hi Susan,

This is developing well. I'm always glad to take a look at your wonderfull landscapes.
I'm happy that everything went well with the miners.



Susan Borgas
05-09-2006, 02:16 AM
It is great news Josť!

What a wonderful day it has been with the two Beaconsfield miners rescued and also a very sad time for their mate that didn't make it.

Sadly though an explosion was heard lunchtime here at my home. Quite some distance away near Gladstone another tragedy is unfolding here in the Mid North of South Australia. There are survivors but also I am aware there is a death with one or two people still missing, depending on what news I am listening to or reading.

Because of the highs and lows of today I have done little work on my WIP.

I lightened the background slightly as I realized there were little differences in values on the side of the tree trunk on the right hand side next to the background. The shadowed side of the tree trunk now stands out more. This might be revisited again but for now I am happy with it.


05-09-2006, 09:11 AM
I always enjoy your paintings, Susan...and I love the WIPs....you seem to bring the best out and it is great fun watching it all emerge.

I'm glad you are feeling better...although the news doesn't sound good. I'll have to go check google news and see what is up. It seems there have been a lot of mining accidents lately!


05-09-2006, 06:25 PM
WOW Susan. This looks great!!

Can I ask what do you use to add details to the background trees and ground? I mean do you use hard pastels that have been sharpened or patel pencils or ...?

Also, do you print out tonal map from photoshop? Any pointers to actually doing this?

If you dont mind yet another question, any particular reason for the choice of the BG colour of the paper? I mean would blue work as well?

Looking forward for an update.


Susan Borgas
05-09-2006, 08:04 PM
Sandy I am glad you enjoy my WIPís. My brain is already thinking about what my next one should be. Shame it does that to me when I should be sleeping. :rolleyes:

Satheesh questions are good, I just hope I am able to explain myself properly.:D

Can I ask what do you use to add details to the background trees and ground

It looks like there is a lot of details but there isnít really. I am constantly looking for shape and tonal values rather than putting in every leaf and blade of grass. I often start with a hard dark pastel to block in some of the denser foliage in the trees. I then come over this with softer pastels.

I donít use pencils for foliage or grasses. To get some flicks of sharper lines though I will break a pastel to get a sharp edge. Once that edge is used up I feel that is then enough ďdetailedĒ grasses or leaves.

I donít add this detail though to tree foliage in the distance or it will bring them forward. I did use a pencil for the larger twig on the right side of the large tree. I may not use a pastel pencil again in this piece as I rarely use them.

I use pastel sticks the same way I use brushes. A wide brush I would use the side of a broken pastel stick to the width that I want. Smaller brush I would use the end of a stick, or smaller again a used edge of a pastel stick that isnít sharp anymore. Then the rigger brush which is the new sharp edge of a pastel.

The tree trunk is the focal point. It will have the most contrast and detail. I place my pastel marks then use a colour shaper to mound some of the values into each other. A dirty colour shaper is great to transfer some darker subtle marks into the light areas and vice versa. I just love playing around with the smooth trunks of Eucalypts when they have lost the rough bark. There will always be some bark left behind to keep things interesting with contrast in tone and texture. The background tree trunks have less of this detail even though the light is still bouncing off them.

do you print out tonal map from photoshop

I donít use computer software to remove colour from a photo. The only think I print off is my scanned original drawing. This saves me time as I want to save the original as a line drawing without me messing it up with watercolour. Watercolour is what I use to paint the tonal map though graphite pencil will do the same. It also allows me to print another off and start all over again if I donít like a tonal map that I have done.

The line drawing is then blown up to the size of the painting that I want to do. I then tape this to my studio window with the drawing against the glass. I can see the lines because of the light coming through the paper from the window. I trace over these lines with charcoal. Once that is done then lay the drawing over the Colourfix paper with the charcoal side down. This acts as a transfer when you draw over the lines with a biro or similar.

Some may say it is cheating but it is a real time saver. It isnít that I havenít done the original drawing to work through problems. Of cause it pays to keep your eye and hand practicing drawing large and this I do as well.

any particular reason for the choice of the BG colour of the paper?

There is a lot of bare red rock and soil in the Central Flinders and is fantastic to see when the sun is going down. That is why I use burgundy or terracotta paper for this area. I have used blue for the Southern Flinders where I live but not for the Central Flinders. I have heard that the Central Flinders at certain times of the year the mountain range looks bluer, which affects everything around them. I have not seen this myself as I only get to venture into the area when the colours are warmer; semi retirement is getting closer that I can spend more time in that area soon.:D

Well I have droned on enough. Hope it helps! ;)

05-09-2006, 11:39 PM
Looks great as always, looking forward to see it finished;) You can really tell the way that tree is being hit by the light, that it's a bright sunny day;)
Good to hear that you're feeling better.

Susan Borgas
05-10-2006, 03:00 AM
Nicoclaus I love to push the light as much as I can in my work as I believe it is what gives it the oomph that I want. Though I have done the dull cloudy day and had fun doing so. ;)

Life is very busy here on the family farm with sowing our crops hence finding it difficult to spend as much time as I would like in my studio. At the end of the day I canít complain as the farm is what brings in the money that allows me to paint. :thumbsup:

I did manage to get some pastel on the paper with scrapes, dots & dashes, lightly and heavier application of pastel. The idea is to make as many varied strokes as possible to form the creek bed then pick out some of the shapes and mould them into what I want. It is best to only make a few rocks and grass and let the viewer do the rest than to try and paint every small stone or blade of grass.

Anyway here is the next update :)


05-10-2006, 04:43 AM
Thanks a ton Susan. You couldnt have explained it better.

Your work is inspiring me to try some landscapes. Cant wait for the next update.


05-10-2006, 01:15 PM
oooo, glad i made time to stop in today! your wips 'boring'!?? you must be joking, they are sooo great to watch!! and this is gonna be worth watching. thanks for taking all the time to do this, and post all the answers to questions, you may be anwering one person, but i am sure many more (like me!) are also benefitting!

05-10-2006, 09:43 PM
Ahhh, Susan, what gorgeous country you live in.
You show us scenery rendered so beautifully....I want to visit soon!

05-10-2006, 09:52 PM
Love the update Susan!!

Susan Borgas
05-11-2006, 03:23 AM
Satheesh your welcome. The update isnít going to happen today as I have spent time working on the marketing side of my work today. Should be an update tomorrow though. :)

Chewie thank you so much. I believe I get just as much back, especially motivation to keep painting. :thumbsup:

Cindy you are right and I hope I never take the country I live in for granted. You would be very welcome to visit. :D

Tres, Taaa!! :cat:

Bhavana Vijay
05-11-2006, 08:15 AM
Oh wow Susan!This is coming along great.Can i ask for a close up?I just want to keep staring at your painting.:)

05-11-2006, 02:45 PM
Susan...I love these forums and particulary the WIP's ....I really like the way you've mapped out the whites and watching this painting come alive. I agree with Cindy...must be beautiful country there!! Mike

05-11-2006, 04:24 PM
Susan, you have got another lovely painting going here. Thanks a lot again for the WIP and your explanations.

Susan Borgas
05-12-2006, 02:49 AM
Thanks everyone for you kind words. Please if anyone sees a problem with this work I would love to know about it as I am here to learn as well. :)

I concentrated on the foreground tree today. I am posting a close up of the foliage to give you some idea of what it really looks like and to talk about how I go about applying the pastel.


Have a look at the ends of some of you pastels (if you own any). Some are rough and some smooth from use. The lighter values I actually “bang” the end of the pastel firmly over the top of the darker values. The texture on the rougher ends of pastel sticks make their own marks forming spots or little dashes over the layers of dark pastel.

Some of the colours will mix creating shifts in values as well as colour. Even the smooth end of a pastel stick will create interesting marks of there own as do the rough ends. I have used medium soft pastels to hit the paper firmly that my shoulder actually aches on larger works. The very soft pastels; a softer strike on the paper. Can’t have those beautiful expensive pastels shattering everywhere. :p

Striking the paper with a pastel stick doesn’t allow you to be exact with the placement of pastel, which for me is good as it stops me fiddling with the foliage. There can be some very happy accidents when belting your paper with a stick. :evil:

Bhavana a close up for you and of cause an update of the whole piece. :wave:



05-12-2006, 07:57 AM
Beautiful Susan..am I seeing those little dabs of red in the tree's foliage :)

05-12-2006, 08:12 AM
Another gem! What a gorgeous tree....it is simply beautiful and you have certainly done it justice.
The color and light are wonderful....and the depth is great. Really lovely, Susan.


Susan Borgas
05-12-2006, 08:26 AM
Tres you are seeing them though they look brighter than they really are. I often see light catch a leaf that for one reason or other has turned red. I presume because it is dying off. The dead leaves tend to be more orange. The gum nuts put plenty of colour in the foliage as well.

Sandy thank you. I only now have the last of the foreground to finish off and perhaps a few more twigs. Hopefully the last posting will be tomorrow.

Anyway night from me as it is time to get some shut eye. :wave:

05-12-2006, 09:46 AM
Susan, thank you for posting this as a WIP. The written explanations that go along with each update are a real treasure. I've always wanted to visit Australia but have never been able to afford it. Your paintings are the next best thing to being there. :)

05-12-2006, 01:05 PM
What a beautiful scene. I love the colors and that trunk is fantastic. I mix my pastels too between hard and soft.

Susan Borgas
05-12-2006, 06:38 PM
Lisa I am so please that you are enjoying the scenes. I just love to show Australia off. :)

Charissa it can be interesting to see what happens by adding a hard pastel over soft. I tend to grab a stick because of the value and hue rather than hardness. I have been known to come up with mud as well so it doesn't always work. :wink:

Susan Borgas
05-13-2006, 01:43 AM
Well unless something comes to my notice that I need to make an alteration, this work is now finished.

The creek bed was actually a lot of fun to do.

I had stained the paper with darker pastels before putting the mid and lighter values over the top. Few flicks of grasses here and there plus a couple of fallen twigs. I could have put more of the fallen timber under the tree but thought it was busy enough already without additional debris.

The close up of the creek bed is blown up larger than the actual painting even though I have shrunk the pixels. It will give you a pretty good idea what the pastel marks look like.


So now here is my question, is it finished?


05-13-2006, 05:56 AM
Yet another wonderful enjoyable WIP, Susan. I never find them boring.You are excellent at describing your process. Yes, I think it is definitely finished and ready for framing!!


ps. Do you use fixative?

Susan Borgas
05-13-2006, 08:05 PM
Thanks TFB.

I don't use a fixative.

Because I stain the paper from scrapes of pastel then rubbed in rather than fill up the tooth in the early stages I don't need to use a fixative for more layers.

Before framing I will give the work a good shake then lay a sheet of glassine over the pastel work and firmly press and drag the side of my hand across the smooth surface pushing the pastel firmly back against the paper.

This is best done with the pastel painting removed of tapes or clips where pastel dust can be hiding. I lay mine on a narrow bench where I can move around the work freely.

05-13-2006, 08:48 PM
Hi Susan, this has come up wonderfully! Congratulations

05-14-2006, 05:44 AM
Fantastic as always :) Oh I can just hear the magpies warbling now, as long as their not dive bombing it's fine :D

Merethe T
05-14-2006, 06:43 AM
Excellent work!! Love reading your WIP's, you explain your prosess so well, very interesting and inspiring, you say boring?? Not a chance!

Beautiful painting, I love the light and the sence of distance in your work, and the trees are wonderful!! Love the close up's, your strokes work very well. Thank you for sharing!! :)

Bhavana Vijay
05-14-2006, 11:03 PM
Oh wow wow wow!!This is soooo beautiful Susan. :clap:
Thanks for all those close ups.
I find your method of pressing the pastel in with glassine over the painting very interesting.I;d be afraid to do that tho, any precautions one must take apart from the obvious?

Susan Borgas
05-15-2006, 09:49 PM
Leigh thank you 

Maddy thank you. There is a large family of magpies here. They sound lovely and very lucky that they have a good temperament as they have never dive bombed family or visitors. I have had some experience of it though where they do. It soon has the hair on the back of ones neck standing up on end when you feel the breeze from these birds pass so close.

Merethe you are welcome and thank you for saying so many nice things.

Bhavana thanks you. I always make sure the glassine is wiped clean of any previous use, using a dry cloth. Never drag the glassine across the work as it can smudge but other than that it is very easy to use this method.

Bhavana Vijay
05-16-2006, 10:10 AM
Thanks for your tips Susan!
I keep coming back to admire your painting.Its unbelievably beautiful!

Susan Borgas
05-16-2006, 07:13 PM
Bhavan I will soon have a PDF file of this work on my website. This file will be put together from postings on my blog. The images are not as large though as it will make the download very slow for those on dial-up. There is already two PDF files from my recent work in progress that I also posted in the Soft Pastel Forum. :wave: