View Full Version : Demo - Summer Light

03-07-2008, 05:06 PM
I have been asked to provide a demo of how I paint pine trees. So I photographed my progress through my next painting in an attempt to illustrate how I am currently working. I apologize for some of the poor photos. They may be slightly out of focus, but I believe still exhibit the idea at that particular step. The colors appear on my monitor to also be slightly cooler than in real life. Glad I am not a photographer by profession or I would not eat much.

Here is the reference photo. I chose this photo because it offered some challenges in composition and all that green. As with working with photos, colors were not as saturated as in real life and the dark shadows become too dark in the photo. It made it difficult for me to resolve some of the shapes and relationships. I like to use the photo only as a reference and do not try to copy it.


I chose to work on water color paper treated with a gesso/marble dust mixture. This is a surface that I have been experimenting with lately. It has just enough tooth and I like how the variations of the brush strokes from applying the gesso mixture add additional texture. I took some care to draw in my basic shapes with pencil. This process helps me resolve elements in relation to each other, e.g. this tree is behind this other tree, etc. Often it can be difficult to discern due to the poor quality of the photos. This step is important because it maps out how I think the painting will progress and allows me to evaluate the composition and make adjustments quite easily. I also know at this point where I have issues with masses or areas and can begin thinking how I may resolve them as I progress through the painting. I liked the path and the cast shadows and felt that it was an important part of the painting.
After I was comfortable with the preliminary drawing I would mass in color using water colors as an under painting. Water color lightens as it dries and I had to repeat some of the areas to obtain the darken values as a base. Typically I try to make the under painting darker than the final value of the pastel. At this point my main goal is to identify my shadow and light masses. Detail was not important at this point, nor specific color. One of the challenges for me was to decide how to emphasis the shadow area or the sunlit area. I decided to wash out the detail in the sunlit area to emphasis how strong the light was. Therefore my pastels would be high key in this area.
At this point I began applying pastels. I worked with a variety of brands and hardness. The decision was based upon color availability and not hardness. I felt that I wanted to portray the bright summer light and therefore began with these areas of the painting. I was also uncertain at this point on how I would resolve all the dark greens of the pine trees in the shadows.
Now I started to move around the picture blocking in some larger color. This photo is more on the blue side and does not show the violets in the shadows on the path. You can also see where I repositioned some of the tree trunks on the left to vary the spacing. At this point I am still not sure how I will resolve the dark shadow masses of the foreground trees. I added the single tree down the center of the painting to draw the viewer along the path. I also softened some of the shadows, especially as they progressed in distance or further from the source. I added some color the background trees. You can also see that I started adding some darks in the foreground trees.
This photo has a little better color to it than the previous one. I continued to build up the pine trees in the foreground. I paid careful attention to the lights, being slightly warmer in value, and the direction of the shapes of the branches. I also worked on the smaller tree in the foreground to the right. This helped add interest to a mass of darks and I believe additional depth. It also repeated a pattern with the lighter more yellow green tree down the path. I also added some warmth in the distant ground and lightened the sky to help with the appearance of bright sunlight. I continued to add some colors in the shadowed areas under the tree and softened some edges.
Here is a close up of the shadow areas in the path. I think some of the violets show up better.
I continue to make some adjustments as I go along to the trees and background. I did not like the repetition in the tops of the background trees and added some more mass to vary the spacing. I also worked on part of the shadow to the right to continue it off the page. At this point in time I will let it sit for a while, sometimes a month or two, and see if I wish to make any additional changes.
As always comments and crits are welcome. I hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for looking.

03-07-2008, 05:14 PM
wow..thanks Ed..this comes just when I need it!! i am learning landscapes...i see your road..really looks like a road!! and all those beautiful greens...Thanks so much for taking the time to do this!! it is beautiful!!

03-07-2008, 06:30 PM
Ed, thanks for the lesson. Working with all those greens is quite a challenge. Only thing I think I might have wanted was a dark green/shadow in the very near foreground. I know drawing the eye to the path is the goal ...and I am still learning so I may be way off base, but that is my only thought. Anybody else feel the same????
Yvonne in NC

03-07-2008, 06:46 PM
What a great lesson. I'm going to have to try underpainting w/ watercolors now. It is just beautiful. I had to go back to the reference photo, and I see what Yvonne is talking about. A shadow in the foreground, would make you feel like you are still among the trees. But either way, it looks great!

03-07-2008, 06:54 PM
Well I certainly enjoyed it! Thanks so much.. I have not done but two landscapes in pastels & one of them was done LEFT handed (im a righty) as a challenge.. This is just beautiful!!!

03-07-2008, 07:52 PM

Quote : "I like to use the photo only as a reference and do not try to copy it."

And thus the "life" quality of your work.
It's a fine painting, indeed.
I could bet that you do plein air painting.

Kind regards,


03-07-2008, 08:32 PM
Thank you for the WIP Ed. It is always interesting to see the steps in a painting. You did a great job on the trees. I like the painting the way it is.


03-07-2008, 09:01 PM
This is a wonderful demo! Thank you so much. Great painting too.

I am rating this thread 5 so that hopefully it will go in the library.

03-07-2008, 09:25 PM
Wonderful!! I'm considering trying to do a pastel. Have no idea where to start, but this is great and will be listed in "my favorites".. for referencing!! Thanks for a great instructional piece.. :)

03-07-2008, 10:16 PM
More, More, More.... :D:D

Wonderful. Thanks!

03-07-2008, 11:01 PM
Very good demo... I have never tried pastels... Now I think I'm going to experiment with them next :clap: great Job!!


03-07-2008, 11:14 PM
By the third picture I was like: hm, that looks veru mellow compared to the picture, but you made it come to life so gloriously with all those dark and light touches at the end!
It's BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!!!!!!

03-08-2008, 10:43 AM
Nice demo but I still think there is magic involved ? :) Sure doesn't work that way when I try it.

Merethe T
03-08-2008, 11:09 AM
Great WIP, thank you!! Gorgeous painting, love those trees and shadows....
Going back for further study, landscapes are so hard to do - and this is just what I need! :)


Paula Ford
03-08-2008, 11:43 AM
OH Ed! Thank you so much! What a wonderful demo and a fantastic painting...thank you thank you thank you!!!


Donna T
03-08-2008, 01:23 PM
This is just what I needed to see, Ed. Thanks a million! You were not a slave to that photo and you ended up with a beautiful painting, not a reproduction of a photo. I'll be looking at this and trying to learn from it.


Adriana Meiss
03-08-2008, 02:02 PM
This is really a treat! Thank you for sharing.
It is always amazing how an artist transforms what may look like a drab photo into an interesting scene.

03-08-2008, 04:46 PM
Fabulous demo, Ed! Thanks so much for sharing. It's a beautiful painting.


03-09-2008, 12:39 PM
I apologize for taking so long to respond. This is a busy period for me.

Alicia - I am in awe of you portrait work. Perhaps I will attempt one and you can help me.:) I find them much more challenging than pine trees.

Yvonne - I decided to leave the shadow out of the lower right hand corner because I did not think it was important enough in the painting. I wanted to emphasize the sun in the foreground because much of the painting was already in shadow. But, perhaps I will try another version playing with how to emphasize the light instead of the shadows. Then it may have more importance. We'll see.

Kerri, T, Doug, Terri, LouAnn, Michael - Thanks so very much.

Jose - That is the best compliment I could hope for and yes, I do try and paint outdoors as much as possible.

03-09-2008, 12:51 PM
Wow Ed, You had me with just the underpainting! This is magnificent. What's especially beautiful is the way the lavenders and shadow colors just "Dance" up into the trees. The lighting is spot on!

My only regret is not standing over your shoulder and watching you lay in the trees layer by layer.

Superb!!! Thanks for taking us through the process.:clap: :clap:


03-09-2008, 01:04 PM
Aprajita - I tried oil painting for a while and struggled. With pastels I can concentrate on the painting instead of the materials. I have not given up, but for now, pastels are for me. I hope you enjoy them as well.

Adiro, Ah well, part of that was my poor photographic techniques. But I am glad you followed through to the end.

Jim - magic? I don't know about that. You should see the ones that go in the garbage. :lol:

Merethe - Thanks a bunch.

Paula - Your welcome. Your welcome. Your welcome. I admire your work and it means a lot coming from you.

Donna, Adriana, Thanks to both of you. I get tired of looking at the same photos on my computer and must find ways to get some inspiration from them. I try to remember the feelings I had when I took that photo. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. I also try to remember that no one will see the photo next to the painting when it is hanging on the wall. That gives me a little lattitude when working out my compositions. I am glad you liked it.

Binkie - I am glad you enjoyed it. Thanks so much.

Barb - Wow thanks. I had to add some more color than just green. I am glad the lavenders showed through. I work from dark to light on the trees. I guess you will have to find your way over to Yellowstone if you want to look over my shoulder. :D Thanks again.

03-09-2008, 01:08 PM
Wonderful demo!! :thumbsup: I am just starting out in pastels and love landscapes too. I have put your demo into my favorites also, so I can reference it later. Thanks for sharing :clap:


03-09-2008, 02:07 PM

This is great! The trees (and everything else) are so lifelike and natural. Beautiful!


WC Lee
03-09-2008, 04:40 PM
really good painting :) the trees came out great and great color selections.

03-09-2008, 05:45 PM
This is beautiful! i have added this thread to my favorites too!

03-09-2008, 10:36 PM
Thanks everyone. I am glad you enjoyed it.

03-09-2008, 11:17 PM
what a great painting Ed love the colors in the shadows. Its always nice to see demos, how they start and finish.