View Full Version : The Spotlight - April 2011 - The Color of Light

04-01-2011, 01:31 AM
Welcome artists! :wave:

Here is a quick recap of what The Spotlight is all about!

The Spotlight is an activity thread for pastel artists of all experience levels working from photos chosen by a monthly host. Most months, the host will choose photos from only one subject, putting that subject into “the spotlight,” so to speak! For example, one month the subject will be painting water, another month will spotlight flowers, etc.

Some months, rather than spotlight a subject, the focus will be on a challenge of some sort. In those cases, we might have a wider variety of photo references, but “the spotlight” will be on the challenge itself.

Since this is a group activity, we can pool our knowledge and resources, and grow as artists in a fun, “no-pressure” atmosphere. And no critiques unless specifically asked for. The intent is to have fun, try new things, experiment, and perhaps most of all, to see what our friends and colleagues are painting from the same reference material!

Please note: The photos this month are taken by me. You have permission to use the photos as reference to create your artwork and to sell them and/or exhibit them. The actual photos still retain the copyright of the photographer. So you cannot copy the photo to your blog, for example, without the permission of the photographer, or digitally alter or reproduce the photo for any purpose other than for your personal use, with the exception of crops, digital alterations and posts of these photos within "The Spotlight" thread.

This month, “The Spotlight” is on...The Color of Light!

I will be the first to admit that for many years I never really paid enough attention to the color of light – and since I was trying to paint realistically, with some degree of accuracy regarding atmospheric conditions, this was a major stumbling block. In recent years I have tried to learn more about this subject – and I hope you don’t mind if we explore this topic together this month in the Spotlight!

I’ve read a number of good summaries on how light influences the colors of your painting, and thought I would share a few:

Here’s one from James Gurney’s excellent book Color and Light:

A clear, sunny day has three different systems of illumination: the sun itself, the blue sky, and the reflected light from illuminated objects. The second two sources of light derive entirely from the first, and should be subordinated to it.

From Kevin McPherson’s Landscape Painting Inside and Out:

Light affects color: The color of light shining on an object mixes with the local color of the object. A yellow lemon, for example, changes to orange when bathed in red light.

Sounds pretty simple, right?

In many ways it is – if it weren’t for our brains and their preconceived notions! As I’m sure most of you have heard and read in many books on drawing and painting, it is difficult to override our mental images. We have a lifetime of associating colors with objects – grass is green, the sky is blue, oranges are, well, orange, etc. We need to overcome this obstacle to really see the colors that are before us.

Obviously, direct observation is your best tool, but in the following examples I have used some photos that (hopefully) demonstrate how the color of light affects local color.

The first question I asked myself when I thought of doing this Spotlight was – what is the difference in the color of grass when it is sunny as opposed to cloudy? Let’s see:


The yellow light of the sun (left) definitely seems to be influencing the “green” grass, making it more yellowish than its color on the cloudy day (right).

How about the difference between looking towards the sun (left) and away from the sun (right)?


To my eye, there is definitely a slight difference in color, with more of the yellow light of the sun reflecting off the grass when looking towards the sun. But in both of these views the grass seems more yellow-green than in the cloudy photo.

Let’s look at another example showing the difference between sunshine and cloudy conditions.


Here we see a fall tree. Since the tree is already predominantly yellow, it doesn’t change hue very much in the sunshine, but the color seems more intense. But notice that the yellow light of the sun alters the local color of the road, making it more yellowish (warmer).

The above photo reminds us that color has four properties – hue (red, yellow, blue, orange, violet, green, etc.), value (how light or dark), intensity (how bright the color) and temperature (warm - leaning towards yellow, and cool - leaning towards blue). In the above photo, the sunlight makes the color lighter in value and more intense (or so it seems to me). Sometimes, however, intense light can “wash out” the color, so it may not always be more intense in sunlight. It’s best to observe all four properties of color closely – they all are affected by the light!

I mentioned the yellow light of the sun, but sunlight is not always the same color either. It can be fairly white, more yellow, and considerably orange when the sun is near the horizon. Here are two photos – one taken in the late afternoon (left) where the sunlight is somewhat yellowish and one just before sunset (right) where the light is more orange.


Let’s take a closer look at the sunset photo on the right:


Using the computer, I’ve “sampled” some colors. Evergreen trees are green, right? Well, the color of that sun-bathed background tree is a very dark orange (also known as brown)! And that maroon colored car – the roof is…blue from the sky above! Also, blue shadows on the snow. And the nice white car is obviously white, right?…or maybe orange!

Everything seems to be affected by the light’s color. Although it is hard to see in the photo, even the asphalt parking lot is a dark brown in the above photo.

Keep in mind that the sun is very low in the sky in this photo. If the sun were higher and shining more directly on the cars, for example, the blue sky color might not be strong enough to be seen on the roofs, since the strength (and color) of the direct sunlight is much stronger. As James Gurney mentioned in his quote, blue sky light and reflected light are subordinate to direct sunlight. Often this means that they would only appear in the shadows, but no specific rule seems to work here. Only with direct observation can we tell how direct the sunlight is and if the blue sky light or reflected light might affect the sunlit parts of a scene.

Another role the color of light can play in a painting is to create unity and harmony. Artists often struggle to “harmonize” the colors in their paintings. But, as we’ve seen - especially in the sunny photos - the color of the light can be a natural harmonizer!

Let’s take a look at the same townhouse scene on an overcast day:


Since the sky is a light gray, that is the color of the light (or lack of color). So the tree is green (very dark, hard to see on this photo), and the car is almost white on top, and a very neutral gray in shadow. It seems like, on cloudy days the “local color” is changed very little (or not at all) by the color of the light –because the light is gray/white. If the clouds have color – as they might have during sunrises and sunsets and other specific conditions – then the cloud color will affect the color of the light.

The next photo is one our reference photos, but I thought we would study it a little first! It’s an indoor set up that has a lot of reflected light.


Now, I think we all “see” that this photo has a white teapot in it. But let’s take a closer look! All the color samples are from the teapot. The highlight sample (in yellow box) is fairly close to white, but all the other areas of the teapot have more color. The set up is indoors, so there is no direct sunlight, but light is coming in through a window on the left. The walls of the room are a light blue, and obviously a lot of light is reflecting off the tablecloth and the red cup. Notice that the colors of the reflected light on the teapot are not identical to the colors of the reflecting objects – they are mixing with the local color of the teapot, and in most cases the shadow (gray) side of the teapot. Also reflected light is not that strong, so it fades with distance and is not nearly as intense as the reflecting object. And even though the colors look, well, very colorful in the samples, on the actual object they are subtle and subdued. They help harmonize the picture, but the reflected light does not stand out by itself. Without the computer – and the color samples – I notice them only faintly. But they are there! – and the hard part (at least for me) is putting them in a painting and keeping them subtle and subordinated! For without the reflected light, the painting won’t look right, rather it will look like independent objects that are colored in – not objects that are connected by the color of the light.

While cameras aren’t that accurate when it comes to color, and they often don’t pick up subtle color changes or colors in shadows, they can still be a useful tool, and computers can help us recognize the colors in a scene by allowing us to zoom in, or to create color samples as I have done above. So anyone can do these kinds of comparisons and experiments to learn more about the color of light!

A personal note: As I mentioned at the start, I have struggled with color for many years. While it is hard to admit to being stupid – I certainly was! Whenever I read about color temperature (warm and cool), I never paid attention. Why? Because I had always learned that

If the value is right, then you can use any color.

If this is true, I asked myself, than how can warm and cool matter? I can use any color, right? So for many years, I ignored color temperature. But as you can see, color matters - whether it is influenced by the warm yellow light of the sun, or the cool blue light from the sky. Color matters whether it is influenced by the relatively neutral white light from a cloudy sky, or from the colors of reflected objects.

This is not to say that the "value is right..." saying can't be useful – especially for artists working in a more expressionistic way. And in some cases, the hue can be any hue. But if you are trying to accurately portray the color of light and atmosphere, then the colors need to be accurate in color temperature and intensity. That is what took me forever to learn! Hopefully, now I can pass along my experience to you!

Here are the references! In some cases, I am including references of the same scene under different light conditions. I am hoping that this will help us all (including me) experiment with – and concentrate on ─ the color of light!

Here are 2 photos of the same scene – one in the fairly white light of early morning, one in the more yellow/orange light of late afternoon.

For a larger version, click here:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/RefLib/showphoto.php?photo=129547&size=big&cat=3533 (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/../RefLib/showphoto.php?photo=129547&size=big&cat=3533)

http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/31-Mar-2011/82335-08-trees_and_rock_both-small.JPG (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/../RefLib/showphoto.php?photo=129547&size=big&cat=3533)

Next, a sunny and cloudy comparison. Larger version:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/RefLib/showphoto.php?photo=129548&size=big&cat=37 (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/../RefLib/showphoto.php?photo=129548&size=big&cat=37)


Another sunny/cloudy comparison of some brilliant fall colors. Larger: http://www.wetcanvas.com/RefLib/showphoto.php?photo=129549&size=big&cat=3259 (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/../RefLib/showphoto.php?photo=129549&size=big&cat=3259)


Here’s a twilight scene – the sun has set, so the color(s) of the sky are the biggest influence, it seems to me.
Larger: http://www.wetcanvas.com/RefLib/showphoto.php?photo=129554&size=big&cat (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/../RefLib/showphoto.php?photo=129554&size=big&cat)=


Here’s an early morning sun-bathed scene on an Adirondack lake: Larger:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/RefLib/showphoto.php?photo=129555&size=big (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/../RefLib/showphoto.php?photo=129555&size=big)


Here’s a scene with sunlit parts in the fore and mid-ground against a background mountain that is in shadow. Compare the greens in sunshine with those on the shadow mountain side. Larger:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/RefLib/showphoto.php?photo=129556&size=big (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/../RefLib/showphoto.php?photo=129556&size=big)


One final ref, our indoor still life. Larger:
http://www.wetcanvas.com/RefLib/showphoto.php?photo=129557&size=big&cat=3696 (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/../RefLib/showphoto.php?photo=129557&size=big&cat=3696)


Please post your paintings here in this thread! Comments, discussion and questions also welcome! Let's have fun exploring the color of light!

04-01-2011, 02:52 AM
This is an interesting thread. I hope to have a go at one of them and see how everyone responds to these pictures. Anything that makes us see rather than assume makes us better painters. Thnaks for putting this together.

the drover's dog
04-01-2011, 05:36 AM
As always, a well thought out article. Clear concise and extremely well illustrated. Many, many thanks for this and all your other efforts to help our dusty mob.


04-01-2011, 05:49 AM
Absolutely excellent class and demo of the effects of light!

Another role the color of light can play in a painting is to create unity and harmony. Artists often struggle to “harmonize” the colors in their paintings. But, as we’ve seen - especially in the sunny photos - the color of the light can be a natural harmonizer!

Everything is affected by the colour of the light/s in the scene. Put in a cloudy day shadow in a sunny scene, and the unity will be destroyed. This 'harmony' is what Monet called l'enveloppe -- the 'envelope' of the light in the particular atmospheric conditions of that moment. As you, Don, have shown so clearly, it matters *a lot*. (Also, it matters in what light you photograph your painting for display on the net...)

Funny fact: Digging through some really old books, from the 17th century, I came across the explanation of warm-cool-grey/neutral colours, how they came to be called that. Warm = as in the sunshine, where we feel warmth, all colours leaning towards y, o, r. Cool = as in the shade, where we feel cooler, affected by blue sky and absence of direct sunlight, all colours lean towards v, b, g. Grey (or neutral), however, is a visual term = the colour of light on a cloudy day affecting all colours slightly towards grey (or a lot, depending on thickness of clouds). This is the most 'neutral' natural light, having less colour bias.

I note how the absence of contrast in the grey day photos flattens the forms, compared to the sunny days where volume is clear.

I'm going to rate this five stars!

04-01-2011, 08:55 AM
Fantastic Spotlight Don! I think many artists respond to something and want to paint it because of the light it has. This is a great subject, and you've articulated it so very well. Excellent research and examples, you've really done a wonderful job. I'm happy you've included a still life. Many people forget that the reflected light and the actual light source can vary with these as well, the nice thing is the artist can control it :evil: , unlike landscapes, where we are at the whim of Mother Nature!

I always say I want to do a spotlight painting, and somehow the month gets away from me. Let's see if I can squeeze this one in, I hope so!

And yes, I've rated this 5 stars also!

04-01-2011, 02:03 PM
Thanks for the side by side photos, Don. Very illustrative lesson. My color schemes are often very out there so this is a good reminder to keep the warm colors together in one painting and cooler ones in another even when I have to do out of the ordinary combos.

04-01-2011, 05:36 PM
Thank you all for your nice comments! This was fun to put together and hopefully will be helpful! I honestly can't remember if I started taking some of the comparison pictures specifically for the Spotlight, or if I was taking them just to satisfy my own curiosity. It's something I would urge everyone to do - if you have a question about something you read or hear about regarding painting, whether from instructional books or from art lessons you may be taking, go ahead and make your own observations and do your own experiments!

Charlie, interesting how old the art terms warm, cool and neutral are! As someone who does a lot of photography, I always try to compare a cloudy day to taking a photo with a diffusing screen. The sunlight hits the clouds and is diffused through them, spreading out over the entire sky. The diffused light fills in the shadows (making things much flatter, as you mention) and creates a much more even, neutral light than when the sunlight is direct. This is why I always recommend that people take photos of their artwork outdoors on overcast days - you need no additional equipment and the light is color neutral!


04-01-2011, 08:43 PM
Don, terrific information here -- thanks for showing all the side by side examples and color samples, as they really show the differences. I hope to get one of these done this month -- completely missed March.

04-01-2011, 11:27 PM
Excellent examples! And this subject is one of my personal bugaboos, so I really appreciate the clear walk through you've done. Thank you-and I hope I get time this month to play with the references. But even if not, this is sooo helpful!

04-03-2011, 01:59 PM
Don, thank you for a wonderful demo and set of references! I've been fascinated by the color of light for years, then finally started getting it in Charlie's still life class. Maybe I can combine this with some of my homework for JV class, or do one during the month. I definitely want to even if it's not on my goals.

04-04-2011, 08:11 PM
Wow, I don't know if I'll get to the painting, but just wanted to say what a wonderfully written article I thought it was, and I loved all the sample photos and write-ups about them.

04-04-2011, 10:42 PM
Thanks again for the nice comments! As soon as I put the photos side-by-side in photoshop, I knew they were worth a thousand words! (Which didn't stop me from writing a thousand words anyway!)


04-04-2011, 11:10 PM
Thanks for putting so much effort and thought into this, Don. It is a great reminder that it is a good idea to paint the same scene many times in different lighting. I hope I get a chance to paint at least one of your fascinating photos.


04-05-2011, 04:40 AM
As always, a well thought out article. Clear concise and extremely well illustrated. Many, many thanks for this and all your other efforts to help our dusty mob.

Dale's absolutely right...excellent article...well done Don!

04-05-2011, 12:07 PM

What a wonderful lesson! Thank you so very much! Great photos with the light just singing! (Must be making music!) :clap:

04-05-2011, 02:05 PM
First off, I love these Spotlights!! I just wish I had more time to spend online to get more involved in them :crying:.

Playing with light, values, tones are so darned intimidating when you start concentrating on getting them all down properly. What a fabulous lesson!

I'm almost too embarrassed to post this disaster. Hindsight says I shouldn't have used the regular pastel pad paper because I can't layer, blend or anything with it once you get past a few layers.

Moving on from the paper issues, just doing this much got me thinking (and that's a good thing) on how to approach these pictures.

I will try again.


Thanks Dak for this topic!!


04-05-2011, 03:45 PM

This is very nice - not a disaster at all! I see lots of cool blues and purples in the mountain side denoting shadow, and warmer colors in the islands giving a nice sense of sunshine! Nicely done!


04-05-2011, 03:48 PM
Lyn, that's pretty cool! I like it. Love that little island.

I found that with the non sanded paper, less is more. It helps to go lightly and try to stay closer to the intended final colors in the early layers.

04-05-2011, 04:43 PM
DAK, I appreciate your observation but I really wanted to try work this. Managed to take a dirty piece of sandpaper and let 'er rip!

Robert - thanks for the advice, I know better now; with paper, be more delicate :). It is great for putting ideas down on something but not nearly as satisfying as layering those babies down LOL.

Ok I'm much, much happier with this one:


04-06-2011, 09:37 AM

Very nice!


04-06-2011, 12:33 PM
Excellent article, fantastic lesson, and exceptional references! Hopefully I'll get a chance to join in on one of these. Thanks Don!

04-06-2011, 01:23 PM
Brilliant color, Lyn! Now I can see what frustrated you about the first one. This is gorgeous!

Donna T
04-06-2011, 02:10 PM
Thanks so much for the great information, Don! You did an excellent job! My only question is why you didn't do this years ago when I didn't even know that light had a color. :rolleyes:

04-06-2011, 03:04 PM
thx Don for the topic/examples !
Donna - :rolleyes: :D
Lyn - i understand that ' oh wow ' feeling when a patch of Earth gets lit on a cloudy day
- your painting joins both aspects of the theme :thumbsup:

Ed :}

04-06-2011, 10:11 PM
Jean, Donna, Ed - Thanks for your comments!

Donna, I wish I had known about the color of light years ago, too!


04-07-2011, 08:23 AM
Thank you Don for such a comprehensive lesson! Although I was aware of the different colours and influences of light this lesson was very helpful in explaining the reasons behind it. I will, of course, do at least one of these, maybe twice to use the different colours of light nad get this more firmly planted in my thick skull!
Lyn, I love your second one! A combination of better paper and doing the same scene twice I think.

04-08-2011, 11:01 PM
Thanks, Ruth! I look forward (as I always do) to seeing your paintings!


04-09-2011, 04:17 PM
I recently ordered a paper sampler from Dakota Pastels and have been itching to try out some of the fancy stuff that I haven't ever used before. So here's my contribution. Note: I looked at the photo in one room and then went into another to paint, so it kind of accidentally turned into a different picture altogether. For me important element was the orange tree though, which I managed to hold on to. :D


The grass and water and background elements are deliberately vague and sketchy since I mostly wanted to concentrate on catching the color and the light on the tree itself. And frankly I was kind of pleased with the tree and I was afraid that messing with the rest too much would ruin it. The velour surface is a little more unforgiving than I'm accustomed to. Rembrandts and Senneliers on 9 x 12 velour. C & C welcome. :)

04-09-2011, 10:23 PM
Hi Shannon! Thanks for joining us in the Spotlight!

You have definitely captured the intense colors of the tree! Nice job!


04-10-2011, 08:07 AM
Wow, Shannon, very colourful tree! Just going to choose my first one...but won't get to it until tomorrow.

04-10-2011, 08:52 AM
Shannon, great colorful tree! I like the way you pushed everything else back and kept it soft so the tree would stand out, very cool.

04-10-2011, 09:53 AM
Finally found some time this morning to do a Spotlight painting. I love this month's topic - and of course I always love the strong sunlight more than an overcast day.

Not to mention... color.

Autumn Sunshine
5" x 7"
Faber Castell Polychromos pastels
Rose Grey Art Spectrum Colourfix paper
Photo reference by DAK723 for April Pastel Spotlight.

04-10-2011, 10:53 AM
Robert - nice !
the highlights on the orange tree are punchy
and the tree at the left edge has great colour textures
just to say a few things :)

Ed :}

04-10-2011, 10:55 AM
Robert, Wonderful strong sunlight in this painting! The main tree is just exploding with intense color, and the yellow light of the sun is evident everywhere - the background trees and the sunlit grass! Even the sky has some nice warm undertones! Beautiful painting!


04-10-2011, 11:30 AM
Robert, that is gorgeous. I love how everything seems drenched in sunlight.

04-10-2011, 12:50 PM
Ah, Robert. A path just waiting to be walked.

04-10-2011, 07:59 PM
Purr thank you! I need to do more. I've got two more cats, when they're done I may be coming back to this thread some more. Next weekend is the last JV class so I'll have time again to start putting it into practice. Though some part of me after all these cat portraits may wind up doing a fantasy mountain shaped like a sleeping cat.

04-11-2011, 11:30 AM
Nice one Robert! Wow, that is one bright cheerful painting! :cool:

I did a crop of the morning sun on Indian lake with the dock and boats. First I couldn't get the dock right - strange as I don't usually have much problem with perspective. Then I noticed one of the boats was slap bang in the middle of the painting (to fail to plan is to plan to fail :o ) so off came the dock, boats and all in a fit of pique :( (I love my stencilling brush!)

Here is the end result. About A4 on fisher 400 with a wet underpainting and an attempt to be looser than my usual style..............


04-11-2011, 03:48 PM
Ruthie, that is gorgeous! You've got the light at the end of the Golden Hour, that slide toward sunset that I love. So colourful and so serene.

I'll be honest. I'm happy you took the boats out. Without boats the scene has a lot more serenity, it's like I wandered up to the lake alone and don't have to deal with a bunch of other people.

Now it reminds me of a place that my daughter and I camped in Pennsylvania for two months in 1996... one of the happiest summers of my life. There was hardly anyone around and we just stayed near this river, it was free to camp there and we ate weeds and rice. She was into gathering natural foods.

When you brushed out the boats, you made the painting much more powerful. No matter where you'd put them or how well they'd been rendered, this has a completely different feel - uncluttered, relaxed, serene, natural. My eye wanders around in it easily and keeps coming back to the trees on the right and the gilded red rocks. They are luscious! I can feel the fading warmth of the sun.

This one's a winner, Ruthie. Definitely one of your best. Don't feel bad about anything you had to do to get it to this point.

04-11-2011, 03:49 PM
Ruth, Very nice! I can definitely feel the sunshine on the rocks! I remember a couple years ago there was a discussion on WC about capturing the feeling of a landscape. The discussion revolved around various color strategies. I argued that using contrived color schemes did not work well for me - that I liked to view a landscape as if I "was there." To me, a contrived color scheme loses the connection of "being there." At the time I couldn't really articulate that a believable -rather than a contrived - color scheme meant that the light was accurately portrayed. When it is accurately portrayed, you can feel it! In this painting, I can feel that sunshine! Well done!


Vivien Maloney
04-11-2011, 03:57 PM
Beautiful interpretations of light!

Robert - Love the glowing autumn colors in the blaze of sunlight!

Ruthie - You've captured the light and the shine on the water, tree and rocks is wonderful. I've never used a stencilling brush to take off pastel but it must work very well. Will have to try it.

04-11-2011, 06:28 PM
a fine selection of sticks/colours to convey the sense of a warm day

my thought for your consideration :

the sun is a single light source
kinda like one light source for a still life
and the sense of depth, whether cm or km
depends on that fact
since there doesn't appear to be a lot of 'puffy clouds'
i assume that the light(sun) is uninterrupted
so the foreground (right)
and the far shore/treeline is confusing with those factors ...

your choice of blue pigments for the water and sky is very fine !

Ed :}

04-12-2011, 05:00 AM
Rob, Thank you! Your comments are always so positive and I really appreciate that. There are positive things about this painting but, I go by the experience in creating a piece. This was not a good experience!! I am very glad that it evoked good memories for you though. It's that sort of thing which gives art a purpose.

Don, Thanks very much! Had I given the planning of this more time I would have been more disciplined in ensuring the trees and rocks were similar, but not the same, hues because I wanted the one to stand out more against the other but who knows if the effect would've been any better.

Viv, Thank you! A stencilling brush has stiff bristles and can be used very effectively on sanded papers and pastelmat to gently remove several layers. There is always a "ghost" but easy to cover with all but the lightest colours. I wouldn't try it on ordinary papers, eg, canson though other then very gently!

Ed, where you been? Haven't "seen" you for ages! Glad to encounter you again. Looking at the photo the far bank does have flashes of sunlight but very muted. I don't think I needed to make it sunny but what I have done is made it altogether too dark. I think I'll scumble over it to make it lighter then it will take it's proper place in the painting. Thanks for pointing that out!

04-12-2011, 10:46 AM
hi Ruthie
took an Internet break - i was starting to feel a bit obsessed and some things needed more time/attention

i came across this piece while cleaning/reorganizing
i think that it may be on topic


9x12" on Canson Dessin with Nupastel and Conte

Ed :}

04-12-2011, 11:05 AM
Ed, yes, that looks right on topic! That late afternoon long-shadows golden orange sun streaming over everything. Well done. Especially the sunlight - the way the goal is highlighted is excellent. The trees mass is very effective too.

I tweaked my Spotlight painting. This is not a new photo, I repeated the tweak in Gimp on the photo because I had to take it out of its frame. A messaged critique from a friend pointed out something I always do was missing - I hadn't highlighted the tree trunks. They needed that splash of gold on them.

So after taking the frame apart, the mat got stuck in the frame but the hinged painting flipped down to where I could get at it. The painting looks even better in person. I might try for a photo in the frame. Those three little strokes made it pop, it's eerie what a final detail does to a painting!


Really relevant here - when you're done, check every element in the painting and ask whether the sunlight would be reaching it, if so where, would it show and have highlights? I am usually good about that and this time I missed one. The difference just amazed me. It had looked a little "mannered" like some of the museum paintings I liked that seemed a little stylized. The sun highlights on the trunks snapped it into the true image.

04-12-2011, 04:52 PM
Robert - thx
the tweaks in your piece really do make a difference -
except you missed those top limbs :)

speaking of tweaks, i need to adjust the righthand upright on the near goalframe
so that the net is clearly in front of it

Ed :}

04-12-2011, 05:05 PM
Thank you! Bigger tweak - a shadow that I forgot, coming off the blue tree behind the orange tree. I really framed this prematurely! lol


This is why friends who critique are so precious and valuable. It's the best landscape I've ever done and yet I know I will do better!

04-12-2011, 06:23 PM
yep, get that
the limbs at the top of the big orange tree ?
nag nag nag :)

Ed :}

04-12-2011, 11:30 PM
Robert, Now that you put that shadow in, can't believe I didn't notice that it wasn't there before!

Ed, Very nice! Your painting, in fact, reminds me of another photo I took of the grassy fields in my presentation, but didn't use. It shows how well done your bands of sun and shade are on the grass!

Ruth, just want to mention that due to the direction of the lake and the mountains, that far shore is in the shade much longer while the near shore is in the early morning sun. I think the ref photo shows a few touches of sunshine, but a few minutes earlier and that entire area on the far shoreline is in the shade.


04-13-2011, 01:25 PM
LOL Ed, yeah, I could tweak that branch in the sky gap to give it a more pleasing shape and maybe narrow it a little. Also Johannes pointed out the big orange tree is too rounded on the right side, so taking a big bite out of it may help the shape look more natural. I'm going to think about it and look at it across the room for a couple more days and see what else I can improve.

Maybe all this slow effort by stages will make this one a contest entry for one that doesn't say "you can't get critique on it." I don't think that's against the rules for the Jerry's contests.

Triangles. That branch in the sky gap has triangles. Yep. I could give it a more pleasing shape and more structural soundness.

04-13-2011, 04:03 PM
Don - thx
i was in the right place/time when i pixed the location :)
Robert - just a thought - moving the trunk more towards the centerline of the mass would mean less ' pruning '
- if i did that i'd remove the trunk, do the ground/shadow, then drop in the trunk
but you know what works best for you

Ed :}

04-13-2011, 05:48 PM
Ed, excellent capture of the light in this one. Really true and compelling!

Rob, I see you've been tweaking! Talking of the sky gap...didn't notice before, but just have a good look at it. I believe the gap itself is a symmetrical shape, ie, it's much the same both sides. It's still a pleasing shape IMO though maybe the branch in the gap could do with a little refinement. This'll teach you to frame something before you've lived with it a while. I've done this myself often. Well, actually every time I have one framed!

Don Actually that makes sense as the far bank can't be facing the same way and when the sun is so low it is much more selective of what it shines on. I did have those trees too dark though so I've lightened them a bit.

This evening Hubby and I went to a local pub for an early meal and I drove the couple of miles home at about 7.30pm. I nearly crashed the car because I was staring at the golden light on the English Oaks, which are just bursting into leaf, and on the tops of the hedges, leaving the bottoms in shade and much cooler. I love this type of evening and always wonder at it but tonight I paid more attention to the effect of that light on everything around me. I love Spring!!!

04-13-2011, 06:52 PM
Ed, thanks for the suggestions. I wondered about that, will have to think about it and stare at it for a few more days to decide what to do with it. I'm still going to break up the big curved solid area with another indentation though and definitely change the branch inside the sky gap if not play with the sky gap shape. I liked the sky gap shape but you're right - the trunk is not supporting the main mass of the branches, it's unbalanced like it's been badly savaged on the thinner side.

Ruthie, this is my first time experiencing this. Usually if I frame something because I'm that happy with it, that's it - that's the finish. But now that I've been in Johannes's class, one of the two other paintings I framed looks like it needs serious work. I still like my Ari portrait as much as ever but might de-frame the pastel seascape and work on the surf a bit more.

I was following the photo almost slavishly and the sections on seascapes have given me ways to make the foam even more foamy, the water even more true, also to change the shape of the foam masses to improve them.

04-13-2011, 07:01 PM
Ruthie - oh dear, glad you got home in one piece :)
keep some sort of device to make pix with you - that's how i caught that scene
and tyvm !

Ed :}

04-13-2011, 07:37 PM
NC-artist- Really like your color variations and choices in your painting!
ShannonRae-Very beautiful tree-so vibrant!
Robert- Great color variations and gorgeous bright colors on your trees!
Ruthie57-Very beautiful painting really love the colrs in the water, your trees and rocks-Nice!
Sketchz1ol-Very nice painting really like the exchanges of lights and shadows on yours!
:clap: :clap: :clap:

I finally finished with unpacking from moving... Dak- great lessons!

I was excited this month you had a "still life" as a ref, nothing against landscapes ( I still need alot of work on them), but I started with the teapot and cup, I did not use the pattern on the cloth; Done on sienna pastelmat 6" x 8" with various soft and semihard pastels, and derwent pastel pencils for the tinier areas.
Thanks for the great refs:clap: ! I hope to get a couple more in...

04-13-2011, 07:39 PM
Yeah I just noticed something on the teapot when I uploaded, seems to be leaning, I need to fix that. I'll upload it corrected tommorrow.:(

04-14-2011, 09:35 AM
Hi Tammy, Thanks for joining us! Nice job on the still life! Not doing the pattern on the cloth is a good way to simplify the design, especially since the cloth is not the main attraction!


04-14-2011, 08:17 PM
Tammy, that's beautiful! I love the way you got the perspective on the setup, you've got a very refined balance of values too. You saw the teapot leaning but I have to compliment the realism on the spoon handle and the ellipses on the spout and teapot top, that really worked. Nice rounding on both the pot and the cup.

Vivien Maloney
04-17-2011, 02:03 AM
9in x 12in - canson paper - selection of soft pastels.
I usually underpaint with watercolor, but liked the photo ref so much, I decided to go straight in with pastel. I love the pink of the sky reflected in the water and enjoyed trying to capture the light.


C & Cs welcome

04-17-2011, 11:07 PM
Hi Vivien! This is very nice! Definitely like the way you have brought the sky colors into the water!


04-18-2011, 05:29 PM
Tammy, love the still life! Robert's right, that spoon is great, really convincingly metal!
Viv, gorgeous rendition of that scene! You certainly did capture the light.

04-22-2011, 09:34 PM
vivien-Gorgeous painting; really like the reflections in the water, the rocks, and the beautiful soft colors. :clap:

Thanks for the comments.. Here's the update on the teapot. And I managed to do one today the beautiful autumn scene. Done on 7" x 5" sienna pastelmat with various soft and semi-hard pastels. c/c and comments most welcome. :)

04-23-2011, 10:45 AM
I love the foliage on your orange tree, also the motion. That sense of a wind rustling through all the trees and blowing leaves around is gorgeous!

04-23-2011, 11:51 AM
Hi Tammy, Very nicely done! The colors in your landscape compliment each other very well.


04-23-2011, 01:12 PM
Thanks for comments.:wave: Do have a question though, the sidewalk that run across, I assuming that what it is, how do I create the depth to make it appear flat and at the angle it is?:confused:

04-24-2011, 11:16 AM
Hi Tammy,

I think you have handled the sidewalk well. In the photo, it is a very narrow band since it is seen at an angle, so it really has little in the way of color gradation or any other color changes that might be used to express depth. I like the way you have kept the edges soft and varied the color and value a little bit - it makes the walk more natural - like a path - rather than so man-made. It looks quite flat to me!

One thing that you can do in general to help show the direction of things, whether it is a walk or the ground itself, is to run you pastel strokes in the direction that the object is going - the same direction as perspective lines would be. For example, if you had a wall there instead of a walk, if your pastel strokes went up and down it would indicate that the direction of the wall was up and down. I hope that explains it somewhat!

In this case, I don't think you need any directional lines to help indicate the direction of the surface. It looks like a path on the ground!


Vivien Maloney
04-24-2011, 04:28 PM
Tammy - I like the changes you've made to the teapot painting, and the Autumn tree is lovely. I think you've made a good job of the path. It reads as a path to me and not a wall. Don's advice is excellent - it always is.

04-24-2011, 05:12 PM
Tammy, great autumn tree. And the path looks fine to me too!

04-25-2011, 12:52 PM
Didn't think I'd get another done but I had some time today so what else would I have done?
Here it is, small, about 5.5"x7.5" on dark pastelmat.


04-25-2011, 01:10 PM
Ruthie, that's delightful! I love the colors, that rich turquoise in the water is so stirring. Lovely sunrise and magnificent rocks. Good rock shapes and very dimensional, very rugged and rocky.

04-25-2011, 10:26 PM
Ruth, Very nice! Love the colors in this!


Vivien Maloney
04-25-2011, 11:42 PM
Ruth - This is a gorgeous painting of the scene! You've certainly captured the colors and the light.

04-26-2011, 10:51 AM
Thank you all on the help with the sidewalk; I'm not sure why, but when I scanned it, it didn't look right, but then I took the painting and looked at it from a distance it looked fine .:wave:

Ruthie: Wow, I really like the soft vibrant colors in your painting; gorgeous!

04-27-2011, 04:46 PM
Thank you for your comments on the above work! I'm not happy with it however....it is not as atmospheric as the photo. If I can't make a painting better than the photo ref then I may as well not bother! It's only a little, quickly done, piece but I think I will return to it and try to improve it. The colour in the sky is too orange....but the exact pink/peach I need seems to elude me............Also I think the light strip of water near the far shore needs to be played down, it's just too prominent at the mo.

04-30-2011, 05:31 PM
The last day of the month and finished one. I loaded it twice. When its scanned the "pinks" do not show, even in photoshop. The second is with the camera not much better as it appears blurred, but the pinks show. Oh well. :eek:
6" x 4 " on sienna pastelmat, with various semi-hard and soft pastels.:wave:
Thanks for the great refs!!!!!!:clap:

04-30-2011, 09:58 PM
Hi Tammy! I really like the pinks in the "photo" version! Thanks for the compliment in the refs!


04-30-2011, 10:06 PM
As the month comes to an end, I would like to thank all those that participated! Even if you didn't pick up a pastel, hopefully the lesson was - and will be - useful in your future paintings!