Aspen Against Evergreens

Colorado Aspens
Watercolor and ink on paper, 4.5″ x 6″

A little over a month ago I was passing through the front range of the Colorado Rocky Mountains and there were lots of aspen trees at the peak of their fall colors. They were interspersed among evergreens and I got a few nice photo compositions.

However, when I started this painting a week and a half ago, all I had with me for paints were watercolors. They turned out to ill suited for this scene because of all the little yellow leaves. With watercolor you typically work from light to dark, because most of the paint isn’t opaque enough for light colors to show up well on top of dark colors. That’s why watercolorists normally try to “save their whites” by avoiding painting anything that should be light with dark colors as it would be difficult to lighten it later. With so many tiny dots of yellow surrounded by dark colors it soon became obvious that to preserve the yellow leaves I’d have to first paint a general yellow shape and then define the leaves by tediously painting around each one with dark paint and a thin brush. Instead, I opted to just draw on top of the watercolor with a couple of pens to indicate all of the leaves. It was still tedious, just not as much as it would have been. Some leaves I was able to accent with dots of an opaque bismuth yellow though, so the dark to light approach isn’t a set in stone rule.

Aspen Against Evergreens - photo

The reference photo required a lot of editing because it was taken in poor lighting and started out very dark. After brightening it I actually darkened some parts of the background again to help the center tree stand out a little better and reduce background distractions.


Cabin at the Forest Edge
Watercolor and ink on 300 lb soft press watercolor paper, 5″ x 7.25″

This was first drawn with a dip pen and waterproof black ink, using a photo I took from the train in the mountains of Colorado as a reference. Then I painted over all of that with watercolor. For the warm colors it’s a mix, in varying proportions, of dark ochre and warm sepia. That was then mixed, again in varying proportions, with payne’s grey to get the greys and darks. The cool shadows on the snow are a mix of payne’s grey and cerulean.

Since the last post I started a couple of paintings, but they weren’t working out and I decided to set them aside and try something different. This drawing probably ended up being more detailed and time consuming than necessary, but it’s something I’d like to practice more. Next time though I’ll probably try for a more basic drawing and let the paint do most of the work because this just took too long to finish. I have at least been keeping up with my reading, and just a couple of nights ago finished reading Steps to Christ for the third time now. It’s a great book.

Here’s the reference photo and the ink drawing before adding paint.

Waterfall Book 22

Cascading to a Valley
Ink and graphite on paper, 7″ x 5″

While sketching various possibilities for the next page of this book I started thinking about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. There is some debate over this, but the method I’m going by for determining the start of the Hebrew year, which was Biblically based on agriculture, says that it started a couple of weeks ago and the feast of Passover has started tonight. It was on the night of the start of Passover that Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, right before His arrest and then crucifixion the next day.

What I drew while thinking about that is not fully geographically accurate for the area around the garden, which is at the base of the Mount of Olives, but may be similar. It’s mainly just meant to reflect the serenity that I imagined for the place that Jesus was known to go for prayer.

This was drawn with a ball point pen and a variety of pencils with different hardnesses.

Mountains, Trees, and Clouds

Mountains, Trees, and Clouds

Oil on canvas, 7″ x 5″

I’ve been painting in oils again lately. Yesterday I scraped together a lot of different colors that were on my palette and mixed them into one blob. Some of them I was using on a couple of other paintings, and some were just to see what they’d look like if I mixed them. Today I didn’t have a plan but I started using that mixed paint and some white on top of an old painting until it started to look like clouds, so it became this. It’s just a quick painting, but the clouds were fun to paint. I’m not sure how else I feel about this.

Mountains, Trees, and Clouds detail

I painted the clouds thickly but the brushstrokes and texture of the paint can’t be seen in the full image, so here’s a detail view of the clouds that are a little to the right of the center.

Forest Sketch 4

Forest Sketch 4

Pencil: Palomino Blackwing
Paper: Canson sketch universal, 5.5″ x 8.5″ 65lb

This pencil has an interesting history. The version I have is just the Blackwing, not the 602 which I’ve read has a little firmer lead. This one is dark and feels smooth.

Also, I updated my previous post on verdigris with some new photos. I may try to do some more with it in the future, mainly to try making a purer verdigris pigment as I’m sure that what I made has impurities.

Forest Sketches 2 and 3

Forest Sketch 3

Pencils: Grumbacher Pentalic woodless pencil HB, Koh-i-Noor Progresso woodless black colored pencil
Paper: Canson sketch universal, 5.5″ x 8.5″ 65lb

For this one I was thinking about how there’s several large oak trees near my house and every evening the birds like to socialize in the branches. As the sun sets the shadows go up the tree until they reach the top. I used an eraser for the highlights on the branches.

Forest Sketch 2b

Pencil: Grumbacher Pentalic woodless pencil HB
Paper: Paper: Canson sketch universal, 5.5″ x 8.5″ 65lb

I drew this because I thought I had lost the smaller sketchbook that had the first version of this scene with deer in the forest. There’s supposed to be water at the bottom of the page but it doesn’t really look like it. I probably should have made the water darker.

Forest Sketch 2a

Pencil: Zebra mechanical pencil .5mm
Paper: Canson sketch esquisse, 3″ x 5″ 50lb

Søndermarken Park in Winter, after Vilhelm Hammershøi

Søndermarken Park in Winter 6

These are watercolor copies of a painting by a Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershøi.

The paints used were just some very old tubes of student grade Grumbacher academy ivory black and burnt sienna. I don’t know what paper I was working on because it’s an old paper pad that doesn’t have the cover sheet with information anymore. Probably sumi-e paper. A few different brushes were used over the course of these but a couple of inexpensive synthetic script brushes were used the most. I liked them more than I expected. There’s five other sketches of this but I thought this would be enough to post.



Pencil and Photoshop, 2″ x 5.25″

I digitally colorized a small sketch from my sketchbook. After scanning the pencil drawing I painted over the original with watercolor to see how that would look, but it didn’t work quite as well as I wanted, so I just colored the first scan in Photoshop.