View Full Version : Aspens and Path, looking for C&C before final touches

10-04-2008, 10:59 AM
Hello gang :wave: ,

I think I'm finally over the overuse of revelling in really dark darks... :o crawling back onto the middle road from having spent a time in one ditch, so I guess my next project will overcompensate and I'll veer right into the other ditch, and go too light... :rolleyes:

But this one is both light, middle, and dark. Unfortunately, I will have to do attachments. (When do we get back images within posts?)

1. Ref, taken by susnfx, Susan
2. First layer of pastel, Unisons, which were so pigment rich I decided to...
3. ... brush the pigment out with pure water.
4. The almost finished painting.

Size 70x40cm (27.5x16")
Fisher 400 (excellent UK sandpaper, takes as many layers as Wallis)

I will remove the light on the foremost bush to the right, it is illogical.

C&C on anything, but I do have one specific question: Should I make the bg mass of firs lighter? Even bluer, or greener?

In this size, the painting looks very tight, but all of it (except the two fg trunks) is very loosely scribbled/hatched/crosshatched in, with multiple layers, to get optically blended colours.

My thought was, as usual, to portray light. The trunks to the left were interesting, and the path leading on after passing the 'tunnel' of firs gives the mind somewhere to wanter onwards on. Was that too many things? Should I have stuck with just one thought?

Thank you,

10-04-2008, 12:23 PM
Oh You did great with this.. I wanted to do this one last week, but didnt have time.. My first thought was the mass of firs needs breaking up a bit.. ( sort of the way I feel about my new cloud painting)...& perhaps a little lighter around edges as it appears in your wash... Love your colors as always.. & the light just glows!!

Donna T
10-04-2008, 12:34 PM
Gosh, Charlie, you did an amazing job of simplifying a very complicated photo! I love the way your lights lead us down the path and into the background. As to the mass of firs, maybe try to lighten/make bluer the one on the very right to separate it from the pack and give yet another visual distance clue. I don't know if we really want much more detail there, it looks good the way it is. The vibrating colors throughout really give this one life! Thanks for showing all of your steps- very helpful!


10-04-2008, 12:43 PM
Lovely, lovely work.
Your lighted bush, lower right doesn't disturb me. You still have the lower right corner dark to hold the eye in.

Just a thought: Your middle distant trees are blued considerably and it makes me wonder if the distant aspens are too bright a yellow??

As maw-t observed perhaps a little modelling in the middle distance trees??

One other question, what is your center of focus or attention? If it's the bright spot in the foreground, do you think it might be a bit low in your composition?

10-04-2008, 02:25 PM
:thumbsup: Exellent, charlie! this is the method that was used by pastelist, Luverne Lightfoot at a recent workshop I attented in Sept. You have made a beautiful picture with your own style and touch. Its very nice work.

M Douglas
10-04-2008, 03:22 PM
Wonderful Charlie, this is another example of a lovely photo turning out to be a much more beautiful painting.


WC Lee
10-04-2008, 05:54 PM
very nicely done :) what looks like yellow far distant trees is fighting for attention, it keeps pulling my eyes to it. Perhaps glaze it with the sky color to tone it down a bit.

10-04-2008, 06:16 PM
Hi Charlie, what a great ref photo, I am tempted to give it a try myself one day.

I like what you have done and taken from the photo.

I am wondering as there is light on the bush just under the FG trees, could some of that light cross the front of the path as in the ref photo?

My eye is definitely led down that path to the sky hole at the back and then up to that beautiful yellow tree at the far back, I love that tree and it holds my eye.

Nice painting as always!

10-04-2008, 07:21 PM
Hi guys, thank you for the input!

T, yes, I feel the mass needs something, it is too flat for the distance.

Donna, good suggestion! I've thought of it, and as GMTA... :-D

Hal, great observations! I don't have a center of interest, but for once, it is by design... I want the eye to move around. I'm figuring the sky and bright bg foliage will catch the first attention, and then the eye will travel down the trunks, discover the path, follow it through the 'tunnel'/arch, and be yanked back up to the sky in order to slide down the trunks... etc.

IMaybe, that sounds interesting. I tried to google the artist, but came up with crumbs only. Would she have a site?

Melodie, thanks!

WC and Hal, yes, it might be a good idea to tone down the intenseness of the yellows in the far bg, they started out way more pinkish. I want them to read as bright and yellowish, but receding. Tricky with yellow. Full sun on yellow leaves in the bg, what colour would that be, now? Possibly more warm pinks, and a touch or two of a tinted blue, maybe.

Judy, one solution would be to spill more light on the path, good idea.

Thanks a lot! Hubby liked this painting, so I immediately wondered what was wrong with it... LOL! (He's not very artistic at all. I use him as sort of an opposite litmus test.)

I have a feeling it is a bit Walt Disney in character. Too many pretty golds and turquoises. Or, maybe it really *is* that heavily blued and lightened wall of firs, if I fix that, it might work better.

Gotta sleep on it.


Tracy Lang
10-04-2008, 08:06 PM
Hi Charlie,
Wonderful painting...love your interpretation of the ref photo!
Seems to me that the background yellow tree could be a bit cooler for depth.
LOL at your Hubby comment. Mine is much the same, but his advise is usually right on...go figure :)


10-04-2008, 08:26 PM
Lovely painting Charlie! You've done a beautiful job with this reference! I love the light across the path, shining into that shaded spot.

Adriana Meiss
10-04-2008, 08:28 PM
There is something magical in your painting. I love the path and the sunlight on the bushes. I wouldn't like to see the light them go but it's your painting.
This would have been a good focal area only thing it is somewhat low in the painting.

I see the mid blue trees and the yellow of the foreground aspen as two separate color areas, both competing for attention. How about having an aspen branch or a few yellow leaves superimposed to the light blue firs?

I'd say yes, to adding dark blue/green on the middle ground firs, but mostly on their right side if the light is coming from the left.
Adding pink to the aspens in the distance is a good idea.

10-05-2008, 08:35 AM
Ooh, oooooh, I love this one...the depth, the color, the light! This takes me back home to Colorado.
Nice work!

10-05-2008, 09:17 AM
Tracy, Debbie, thank you!

Adriana, thanks! No, not all lights on bushes, no, just the 'frontest' one! Great idea about some aspen leaves overlapping blue fir-mass, I like it! Gotta do something, as it feels too simplified, that area.

Mike, thank you! You touch on the reason why I often use other people's photos -- other parts of the world have more beautiful scenery, not to mention *colours*! Where I live, it is either flat land with green upon green upon green (*same* shade of green), or, there is a piece of bedrock sticking up through water, with pines and firs, and one birch.
I don't know exactly where this photo is from, but the white aspens were beautiful. (Ours are the exact colour of raw umber, possibly the most boring pigment one can find.)

10-05-2008, 11:27 AM
I love it Charlie! Your use of color is fascinating!

10-05-2008, 01:35 PM
Very beautiful, but if I had one wish, especially as a beginner, I wish you'd post a few more of the steps between No.3 and No. 4. I could learn much from seeing some of those intermediary steps from you before I see the nearly-finished. That's where I'm having most of my problems. I really admire your work and seek it out here.

10-05-2008, 02:27 PM
Linn, thank you!

Phil, thanks! What, you mean I should have the presence of mind to remember to shoot pics when I'm in Flow?! :eek: :D :) I guess I could try... Set an alarm, maybe.
May I invite you to a Colour Still-life Class I'm going to hold on this forum? Soonish, I'm still negotiating the 'fine print' with the PTB, the moderators. It'll be announced in its own thread when it starts. I will go through all the steps carefully, using still-life for clarity, but of course the thinking can be used for any subject, including landscapes. You'll get to do it hands on, by painting, the best way to learn. Words are just words, and have to be 'translated' into pictures, mental pictures, of seeing, doing, and knowing.

10-05-2008, 05:07 PM
Charlie... that is so appealing and mysterious .... it's wonderful. I love the way you played with the light. Donna R

10-05-2008, 07:29 PM
beautiful Charlie as always, I think it is great just as it is.

10-06-2008, 06:06 AM
Charlie, I don't have any suggestions others didn't already make, but I love how this looks -- it has pure strong saturated colors that make me smile. Paintings like this for me are like the way I feel when I write fantasy novels -- a little richer and wilder than life, but still rooted in life as I know it. The good parts, concentrated and pulled together to draw me in for a moment's ease. Of course in noveling the good parts are usually bright highlights against dark terrors, but strong values and distance are what's making your painting work so well to feel real when it's brighter than anywhere I've ever seen. That's something I want to achieve in pastels someday -- that kind of saturated intense color without breaking the feel of reality to it.

And maybe all these pastels are making me a better novelist too. Everything that I do goes into everything else that I do.

Donna T
10-06-2008, 08:16 AM
Charlie, you said, "I have a feeling it is a bit Walt Disney in character." I did get a feeling the first time I saw this painting but it was more along the lines of Art Deco. Not that I know much about it, but I think the graceful, flowing lines of the foreground trees gave me that impression. I associate the colors with your style of painting. Just thought you might want to know. Mouse ears definitely did not enter my mind. :)


10-06-2008, 08:18 AM
Scott, Donna R, thanks a lot!

Robert, thank you! Actually, you've given me a revelation of sorts! What I called "Disney feel" may actually stem from my having been an avid SF and Fantasy reader since I was 5 or 6. Well, there were not much fantasy back in those days. Father collected a magazine with short stories, that some fan had translated into Swedish and printed. And as I read anything with text on, I soon discovered those, as they were sitting on a very low shelf. Been hooked since. Back then, SF paperbacks couldn't be bought in bookstores, they were sneered upon and sold in kiosks selling candy, newspapers, and tobacco. As we get influenced by what we read and see, and I've seen thousands of book-covers in the genres, some of it must have sneaked into my artistic vision.

And, I've been taught colour by the same artist who taught it to the animation crew at Pixar Studios. Clearly visible in "Shrek", and in "Monsters Inc." And "Ice Age", there were sublime colours on the tusks of one of the mammoths.

Gotta get off the computer (having a bout of bronchitis, spending way too much time on the net), stop procrastinating, and paint!


10-06-2008, 11:58 AM
Finally got to work, and finished the Aspens and Path.

I feel more happy about it now, so thank you guys for the input and advice!

First attachment is the 'noodled' painting, and second is a slightly larger than life detail, just to show how scribbly it actually is. As it is largeish for me (full length of a full sheet) only the general impression remains after making it WC sized.

Thank you,

10-06-2008, 12:06 PM
Donna, you must have posted while I typed a while ago, I just now saw it.

.... along the lines of Art Deco. Not that I know much about it, but I think the graceful, flowing lines of the foreground trees gave me that impression. .... Mouse ears definitely did not enter my mind. :)

Art Deco, or Jugend, is a good association, as I had some such thought too when I saw those long trunks. (The style is a bit more stylized, and used a lot in design and decoration. Inspired by Arts&Crafts, but took another road.)

The 'Disney' part had more to do with the bg. It was too simplified, that line of firs, too flat, a bit like a cartoon or a film.

If the insert had worked, I would have added mouse-ears to the firs, just to share the laugh! :D


10-06-2008, 02:09 PM
LOL Charlie, mouse-ears on the firs! But it does remind me more of some of the very best fantasy novel covers I've seen. A couple of small hobbits on the path and there you have fantasy painting. The changes you made are great. They don't seem like much, but they are, the color is more shimmering and less flat now. You remind me with this of something I've always loved in pastels that I need to pay attention to in my current WIPs ... to let go and get a little wilder with color than I have in the past.

10-06-2008, 04:45 PM
Awesome! The colors are fabulous...I love seeing how you started...and the reference photo. As I have said before, your name is quite apropos...color is definitely your thing...and light....this is so appealing and inviting...I want to step in and get lost in there. (Not that I really want to get lost in some woods! :D)


Donna T
10-06-2008, 08:01 PM
Nice changes, Charlie. There is more depth in the firs now and the distant yellows are staying in the background. I like that foreground bush better now that it's in the shade. There is plenty of light farther down the path. Your scribbly-ness really paid off on this one, thanks for the detail.


10-06-2008, 08:12 PM
Great job on this Charlie! Love it!

10-07-2008, 02:32 PM
Robert, thanks! It is always easier to tone down a colour than to make it glow. So starting bright and bold is generally a good idea.

Sandy, thanks! There was a thought behind my username -- me being a colour addict! You won't get lost in these woods, look at how well trodden the path is!

Donna, thank you! I learned a thing recently from Don here on WC -- to keep the brighs off the edges, and used that thought and I think it worked well in the bushes. (Well, had to make it 'wrong' first, and then correct it...)

Linn, thank you so much!


10-08-2008, 05:53 AM
The second one works much better. I love the detail that shows your strokes--it does lose a lot in a small photo, no matter how carefully we take the pic. Funny you should say you were a sci-fi/fantasy fan, because when I saw the first version, that's what came to mind.

10-09-2008, 07:51 AM
Hi Charlie,

I have been on hiatus and lurking in the background. Lovely painting and as you all might know Aspens are something I love. Waiting and waiting for color here in the Pacific NW. If it were me, I would de-emphasize the trunks that bend and curve. It draws by eye. The curve of those trunks is interesting, but disturbing all at the same time. In the photo the trunks are naturally de-emphasized by brush and maybe that would help.

We are surrounded by Aspens, and they grow in groves and put out little aspens all around. If you see one Aspen you will see many, many little aspens. The trunks of Aspen are substantial with a wider base and then taper as they grow upward. I love the fir trees in the background and how you pushed them back. Makes me want to walk down that path!

10-09-2008, 08:18 AM

Somehow I missed seeing this one! Very Nice!!


10-09-2008, 04:07 PM
Kim, thanks. Yes, sort of wish one could actually post the real picture? :-) In real size, too. Guess the fantasy touch comes from my colour choices, plus the shrinking to a small photo that makes things look hysterically detailed, and a simplification of the planes of space. Book covers have to be painted large, nobody could have a one-hair brush for all the detail that are packed in them.

Donna, thanks. I'm glad you want to take a walk down that path! Let's meet in the clearing behind, and have a picknick, or, actually, I think you'd prefer a PA session! I'm not going to change it now, but I take note of what you say. I really liked the curving of the trees, but should have focused on making a painting of one thing -- the path. *Or* one of the trees.

Don, thank you!

10-09-2008, 04:51 PM
I had to go back and look at your final version to see the curve of the trunks. I didn't remember it offhand from just remembering the painting, what stuck in my mind was the searing bright foliage and amazing light. Now that I have looked, I like those -- it's one of the things that makes me feel magic in the scene. It looked strange and simultaneously registered as natural. I've seen it with trees growing on hillsides too many times, so it shimmers in my head like complementary ideas. (That's weird. No, it's not. It's magic. Yes, trees are magical, nature's magical.) I think it adds a little to the fantasy sense of the scene though.

When Donna mentioned the brush, that's the thing I didn't remember about the reference, and that's the "magical" bit. Treebeard's been clipping or moving little saplings. I think it's educational reading these threads because I can see things in other people's paintings that I wouldn't have thought of looking at them myself.

10-09-2008, 05:45 PM
Robert, the saplings are now walking staffs for Hobbits on their long journey, and other wanderers got some too. :-) I cleaned them out, because, although they would've made the scene more realistic, I was working with the idea of simplifying. (Plus the idea of light, always, and the idea of making these aspens the star of the show, and the idea of the path, and the idea of visually match the distance of the 'wall' of firs to the tiny passage through them-- a bit too many ideas, methinks.)

Simplifying, now: I try to turn the concept upside down, actually. Instead of taking away clutter, I think "what is needed to convey what I feel about this scene". Well, only started to think that way. I'm sooooo learning to paint.

Lots of trees grow that way where I live, too, so it was just natural. One of the ideas I had was to make those curves *the* thing of the painting, because this neat light was silhouetting the curve. I think I'd like to paint it again, exploring other possibilities, and make the aspens into really dark trees, no path (no *straight* path), no hole-in-firs, and make everything support the curves and angles of the trunks. Would be a good learning-experience, I think.

But I like this present one, it looks handsome in a frame. So, there are imperfect things and wrong things and clumsy things, and too many ideas. I don't let it bother me, as I like the whole. (At least for two weeks or so.) But I do try to learn, and I value the input from everyone. Makes me think, and that's a good thing.


10-09-2008, 06:01 PM
Wow Charlie! Beautiful work as always. This is a gorgeous piece. Thanks for posting the detail of the trunk - it really helps to give an insight on the way you work. I especially like your use of light and dark in this painting.

10-09-2008, 06:35 PM

This is only a very small suggestion - you might try adding a bit of the ferny undergrowth to the base of the tree in the forground to anchor it - I tried to make a rough sample just to show what I think might help just a bit maybe. I sure do love being able to take a photo of the work in progress and tweak it like this so you can see what might work before actually messing around with your actual image. Anyway, I just thought that might help a bit. The image is really lovely, too.


10-09-2008, 06:46 PM
Paula, thanks for the suggestion. I get what you mean, it'd soften the dark part of the trunks considerably.

Guys, there exists an update, but it is on page two, I think.

So, here it is again:


So, while I talk about having too many things, etc, and while I changed ideas, and so, I tried to combine the ideas so that the *main* area of interest is supposed to be the curved aspens. The light and contrast will first grab the eye in the sky/brigth foliage area, with the tiny limbs for detail, and I'm hoping the eye will travel down the trunk to the second area of great contras, the TL Aubergine curves at the root. Then the eye will, hopefully, be caught by the lights there and follow them down to the path, go down the path through the opening in the firs, and jump back up again to the sky area. The narrow wedge of bg bright foliage is pointing both down to the 'tunnel' and leading up to the sky, depending on the path the eye actually takes. I hope it will work in the reverse: the eye going down that wedge, following path towards us, sneaking up to the left by means of lights, find the curl of tree by roots, go up the trunk into the bright foliage again.

(That is, *if* the eye indeed follows paths, and doesn't simply jump around wildly looking at what attracts the brain, as there are indications and evidence that it is what *actually* happens.)

And I'm going to call it "Path Beyond".


10-09-2008, 07:14 PM

Your discussion on "ideas" and whether or not there are too many things happening in a painting reminded me of what an author once said about writing. A short story is a "one idea" story. Any subplots distract from the impact of the main idea. A novella (or novelette) must have at least a couple subplots to maintain interest. A novel must have many subplots to engage the reader for the long haul. Personally, I think a painting can be any of the above, but if you want someone to be engaged with the painting over many viewings, than it has to be like a novel. Not with main ideas competing with one another, but with many subplots adding to the whole.

I think that is why some paintings give us an initial "Wow", but by the third time we see it, it has nothing more to tell us.

We can "walk into" this painting over and over and find something new every time!


Paula Ford
10-09-2008, 07:46 PM
Really beautiful piece Charlie!

10-09-2008, 07:54 PM
Hi Charlie:

Your update is great! Those changes have made it look even better and really increased the appearance of depth. :)