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.