View Full Version : River Sunset WIP Demo

02-08-2008, 10:27 AM
Hi all,

Back to doing a landscape. The ref photo is one I took last September in the little town of Saratoga, Wyoming. I thought it would be a challenge, as it defies the rule of cool colors in the distance, warm in the front.


Obviously, the whole foreground is much cooler than the warm horizon, with the setting sun hitting the far trees and mountains.

Started with a quick sketch on Wallis, 10 x 13.


Put in the sky with pan pastels (those little sponges are great for blending!) and a few senneliers for the clouds. Next was putting in the mountains and far trees.


Next step was blocking in the rest of the painting, putting in the darkest values.


and adding midtones...


This is as far as I've gotten. Also where I tend to get in trouble.:rolleyes: I always get too detailed, when I would prefer to keep things painterly. Should I keep the fence? How to do the bushes on either side without them looking pasted in? Make them smaller or eliminate them all together? I'm not worried about the grasses along the bank as I've done so many marsh scenes. Any suggestions more than welcome!!


02-08-2008, 11:59 AM
Hi Leslie,

This piece is looking great! Stay out of the detail, my two cents. THis is working so well. The painting is not about the fence, nor the bushes. It is about the beautiful gradation of color, and the light in the background. No need to add elements from the photo just because they are there. Especially since you did not plan them as a design element in the initial drawing. I would like to see a hint of a little oranger light/color in the background, and those far off distant hills could be just bit purpler or cleaner color, and a shade lighter in value, thus sending them waaay back in space. It might just be my monitor... and you already have those colors in there. Just my two cents respectfully submitted. This is a great piece, and I love your reference photo!

02-08-2008, 12:25 PM
This is really looking so good. Good questions and I can't wait to see what the experts suggest. My thoughts would be that the aerial perspective is what would make this comp work. It appears we are looking down here on the fence etc, so it is not blocking the view, for that reason I think it could be left in.. However I am loving this simplictic direct statement without it. The bushes are too much same size and same placement, so I would start with the ones on our left, bring them toward the center a bit more and gradually let them meld into the grasses.. give it a look, then if needed add some on the right..

Cant wait to see the finish!

02-08-2008, 12:42 PM
Ooooh, Kim wasnt here when I posted, it just took me forever because I was watching re-runs of apprentice in-between sentences :))... sooo, now I see the expert HAS already spoken. I would definately listen to her!!

Deborah Secor
02-08-2008, 01:20 PM
Leslie, it's a beautiful start. I agree with Kim, skip the bushes and fence and stick with the essentials. Sometimes I find it helps me to use a piece of charcoal and literally write on the board next to my painting what the SUBJECT of the painting is: in this one, is it the light? the shadow? the color? the atmosphere? the trees? the hills? the --what? YOU as the artist have to be the one to decide that. Then decide what supports that and what is peripheral.

To paint accurate reflections, turn your painting sideways and match them that way. You can't paint what you see in the photo, you have to paint a reflection of what you've painted!

I want to point something out to you, only because temperature is an area I'm exploring in depth right now. You made mention of the cool colors in the foreground. Now, just to clarify, shadows cool things, of course. However, you have to take into account that aerial perspective is still in effect. The time of day doesn't suspend the laws of physics, and the fact remains that the atmosphere progressively cools and lightens all colors. The shadows have cooled the foreground colors but those grasses in shadow are still warm in color underneath it all. Likewise, the fact that there is warm sunlight glowing on the distant trees and hills doesn't change the fact that underneath it all the colors are cooler.

I know this is subtle, but it can be a huge help to keep this in mind. Now look at your picture and see how it applies.


As you paint, try keeping this in mind and just see how it influences the colors you choose.

I really hope this helps... I don't want to confuse anyone! When I finally saw this, it made a gigantic leap in the color work I did in my paintings. I'm only now, after 20-whatever years of landscapes, beginning to be able to verbalize it, so I hope it makes sense.

Lovely piece...Keep going!!!


02-08-2008, 01:26 PM
i'm no expert, but i'll vote for leaving the fence out since it's not an aesthetically special or pleasing one ... and vote for putting the bushes loosely in on each side with one larger than the other and with the accompanying smaller bush by the larger to all act as a gateway into the field ... i agree with kim suggesting the orange and purple in the distance and also more so in the sky reflection .... and i can hardly wait to see your grasses on the bank !! ... your painting is on it's way to be fabulous !!

02-08-2008, 03:31 PM
Thanks all for your suggestions... Kim, I lightened the mountains and added *more* orangey highlights to the far trees and hills. Started working on the foreground, Hated it, and started over again. Here's what I've come up with:


Deborah, I took what you said about the colors still being warm in the foreground, despite being in shadow... tho the photo doesn't really show it, the darks are a warm dark chocolate, highlights are light yellows and pinks. Once again, I think I've gotten too "detailed" with the grasses, too spikey compared to the rest of the painting.:confused:
How to do them without making them too "grassy"???

(Deb and Kim... wouldn't either of you like to come to Martha's Vineyard sometime to do a clinic??? There's a lot of us here that could use your expertise! It's a pretty nice place for plein air work :D PM me if you are at all interested!)

Thanks for your help in this!


02-08-2008, 04:43 PM
Here's the final... again I've redone the grasses :( . Much happier with them. Did them with the same purply blues as the water and a pale yellow for the highlights.


And here's a close up detail of the grass:


Calling this one done!! (unless you all see something I haven't!)

Thanks for all your help!


02-08-2008, 06:24 PM
Great job, Leslie! Congratulations! :clap:

I do have one thing to add, from my experience the lightest grass/sky hole, half moon shaped, reflection on the left side in close to the bush that you added, really needs to be slightly darkened. Even in the photo it really pulls your eye away from the idea of the painting.

I do have another suggestion for future reference when dealing with this kind of lighting situation, do not want you to think you should change this piece.... but when trying to create a sense of light and to help make the background area in light glow, you might consider keeping the foreground highlights on the grasses darker in value than what you have used. This will keep strength in the composition, not break up the value pattern and create the glow. For example, if you squint your eyes on the reference you can see that the grasses are much darker in value. Not that you have to copy exactly the photo, but the concept is there to keep the colors darker and then the area in back will glow. I sure do not mean to take away anything from this piece. Great job.

02-08-2008, 07:20 PM
Leslie - truly - nicely done and i'm glad you left out the fence. I'm still in the growing pains of painting landscapes so I've learned so much from you piece.

the only thing I may have done was to darken the shadows up front on the water... but again - I defer to the experts!
Love the sky!!!
Thank you. Barb

PS Can I come to MV too?

Deborah or Kim - let me carry your bags if you decide to go.

Donna T
02-08-2008, 08:35 PM
This is so beautiful, Leslie and I've learned so much from all the great information given in this thread. I have a hard time using photos for reference and you've done such a good job of making this "your own", not a copy of a photo.


02-08-2008, 08:46 PM
Kim, you're so right... I realised that they were too bright, but didn't have the right colors in my box (or couldn't figure out which ones to use) to keep them more muted and dark in relation to the background. May still fudge around with it tomorrow and post the results, if it doesn't all turn to mud! That little bright spot in the water needs fixing as well, just haven't gotten to it, as I was exhausted.

Barb, thanks for the comments... you are right as well... the water still needs a little tweaking.

I think a WC conclave on MV would be a blast. My honey has a wonderful, big house at Cape Poge light on Chappaquiddick... the only way to get there is by jeep over the sand... fishing, clamming and incredible views! Great fodder for artists. Any takers???


02-08-2008, 09:22 PM
me - me me - hands up - bouncing up and down!!! I have family on CC so I'd definitely be interested.

Barb (beaming from ear to ear)

02-08-2008, 11:12 PM
oh it is lovely! :clap:
Im hoping to take terry ludwigs pastel workshop in september in cape cod :)

02-08-2008, 11:32 PM
Hey Guys,

I could so easily be all over this WC conclave idea!!:D How fun would that be! Barb- I would carry your kit, that figure you posted is beautiful and I hope your art walk was successful. Should probably post that in your thread... sorry Leslie.:o Leslie, I would leave this alone if it were mine.

Happy Painting!

Deborah Secor
02-09-2008, 12:11 AM
Leslie, it's a good strong finish. Take your continuing thougths on to another painting!

I took the liberty of tweaking your photo in my PS program because the histogram was off. I may not have made it better but I'd appreciate knowing if it's closer to the real thing or not!


Oh, a class or workshop woud be a blast! Let's just think team teaching--I could sure learn a lot from you, Kim! Wouldn't that be fun!? I have never been able to get to that part of the nation, so it's all a mystery to me. Looks like a gorgeous place...


02-09-2008, 02:10 AM
Oh, a class or workshop woud be a blast! Let's just think team teaching--I could sure learn a lot from you, Kim! Wouldn't that be fun!? I have never been able to get to that part of the nation, so it's all a mystery to me. Looks like a gorgeous place...


Likewise, Deborah! It would also be fun to have a set of excercises, we all do them and then we all critique and share, like on this forum. Of course, all the while enjoying the beautiful environs of Martha's Vineyard! See what you have started, Leslie!:D

02-09-2008, 08:37 AM
Hi Leslie, you did great with this one! Like that you decided to toss the fence and the right bush -- fence was uninteresting and not adding to the pic.

You ask about grass... I'm no expert (ask Paula! she has a demo on grass somewhere on the site), but I was looking at the last picture in your fist entry in this thread, where you've started to indicate the grass, and that looks very convincing. My guess is that less is more, or quite enough.

You did succeed very well in showing the distance although the warms were in the back!

Paula Ford
02-09-2008, 09:38 AM
Such a beautiful piece Leslie! Great job!


02-09-2008, 09:59 AM
What a lovely painting, I enjoy the wonderful colors and I think you captured the scene quite wonderfully. very nice.

02-10-2008, 10:07 AM
Well, I decided to rework this a bit, since my epiphany of yesterday:


Scrubbed out the whole grassy area, bushes and trees... put them all back in with really soft pastels, redid the water a bit, TRIED not to get detailed, so the foreground doesn't seem like a foreign entity in relation to the rest of the painting. What do you all think? Better?

Kim and Deb, I AM serious about a conclave/workshop/painting/wine consuming get together!