Winter’s End

Snowy Cliffs
Oil on canvas, 10″ x 8″

A couple of weeks ago I took the train again to visit family across the mountains and I noticed a distant mountain that still had snow on it. Using a Nikon P900, which zooms really far, I got a photo and then later sketched it before making the painting above.

The reference photo isn’t very clear because of distortions from the train window, which happens with other cameras I’ve tried, but it works for my purposes. The sketch is entirely gel pen a new Stillman and Birn sketchbook. A lot of it was drawn while waiting in the lobby of a tax preparer’s office or while my niece and nephew were getting haircuts while surrounded by the chaos of little kids.

After that I colored it in with some watercolor pencils, which are very useful when traveling, and used a waterbrush to turn the colored pencil into watercolor. A lot of the brown in the foreground is walnut ink that I had loaded into a brushpen with an extra piston ink converter that lets me use any compatible ink in it. For those areas I didn’t use the waterbrush and instead just let the ink hydrate the watercolor pencil if there was any. The shadows in the foreground are actually a regular colored pencil because I accidentally discovered that one pencil in the set, the indigo, is partly water soluble for some reason. A couple of the others were too, but not as much.

The final oil painting is the first finished oil painting that I’ve made in about five months, and it was a nice change of pace from watercolor. Some of the paints used in it are ones I made myself, such as burnt sienna, orange ochre, and one of the white paints. The others were from various brands. For a medium I was mostly using a small amount of safflower oil mixed with odorless mineral spirits.

By the way, lately I’ve been a lot more active on Instagram than here, so if you guys haven’t looked yet there’s a lot of new drawings and paintings posted here.

Materials used (Amazon affiliates links)-

Stillman and Birn gamma series sketchbook, 8.5×5
Derwent watercolor pencils – not the exact ones I used since mine are old, and also I used a couple of Derwent graphitint pencils.
Kuretake no. 8 brush pen
Platinum ink converter
Daniel Smith walnut ink
Pentel large waterbrush
plus various oil paints and brushes on a Dick Blick canvas board

Colorado Front Range in Autumn

Colorado Front Range in Autumn
Oil on bristol board, 5.5″ x 9.75″

In Colorado the Front Range is an area at the western edge of the mostly flat plains of eastern Colorado that then rapidly transitions into the Rocky Mountains. This relatively small area contains most of the population of the entire state, including the city of Denver, and is the area I used to live a long time ago.

This scene is looking northeast from the side of Eldorado Mountain, moments before the train slips into another of many tunnels in that part of the mountains. When traveling west it’s the last clear view of the land east of the Rocky Mountains, but when traveling east it’s the point where the broad expanse of the plains suddenly opens up as you emerge from the tunnel.

The strip of golden trees stretching into the distance are large cottonwood trees in their fall colors. They grow next to water, and these are following the course of the South Boulder Creek.

I started this on with acrylic on bristol board that had been primed with a coat of gesso. After roughly sketching everything in acrylic I put an extra two coats of clear acrylic gesso and acrylic medium on it to protect the paper from the oil paint. To give extra support to the paper I used PVA glue to glue it onto the back of an oil sketchpad. The photo with part of a white oil paint tube at the bottom is where I switched to oil. The clear gesso seems too absorbent though and is probably what caused some sinking in during the first oil painting session. That’s when an absorbent surface sucks some of the oil out of the paint on top of it and causes the paint to look dull and matte until more oil is added later. Maybe in the future I’ll get some acrylic matte medium instead.

Mountain Town Study

Colorado Mountain Town Study
Oil on gessoed bristol board, 5″ x 3.5″

Just a quick study painting of a small town in the mountains of Colorado. I’m not sure which one this is, but it’s definitely somewhere between Granby and Winter Park, which are near each other.

This started as a gouache painting on top of regular gesso, but after painting the sky I really wanted to do something in oil paint again. I covered it first with a layer of acrylic slow-dry medium by mistake, and after it eventually dried with the clear gesso that I meant to use. I needed it to dry fast, so for paints I chose Prussian blue, charcoal black (Rublev’s version dries fast), natural burnt sienna, and cobalt yellow, all of which dry fast. The titanium white also used doesn’t, but being mixed with the rest helped it. The entire gouache underpainting was covered with oil paint.

Mountain Town 1 ref

The reference photo was from last winter, but I photographed this painting using a very old lens I got at my neighbor’s garage sale a couple of days ago and had never heard of before. It’s a Steinheil München 100mm f3.5, meant for Argus C44 cameras that I “adapted” onto my digital camera by means of just gently shoving it into a Minolta MD adapter and wedging it in there. I think it’s sitting too close to the sensor to not go past infinity focusing and isn’t very secure, but for taking photos of things closer it’s actually pretty sharp. Apparently no one makes adapters for C44 lenses though, so I’m trying to figure out a better solution.


Colorado High Country

Setting Winter Sun
Oil on linen, 5″ x 7″

A winter scene from the high country of Colorado. The photo reference for this was another one I took last February looking out the train window. At the bottom of the scene where the ground looks flat is the Colorado river, hidden under ice and snow. It supplies water to much of the south western United States, but up here in the mountainous high country of central Colorado it’s much smaller than it’ll be farther along its path.

I was going to make a bird drawing today, but this painting took much longer than expected and I don’t think there’ll be enough time before Sabbath starts to get one finished. The idea I have for it will have to wait until another time then.

Colorado High Country ref

Cool Shade of Dusk

Evening Hillside with Cloud
Oil on canvas, 7″ x 5″

Painted from another photo that I took from a train in the mountains last winter. This is looking back west over the hills at evening and not far from my destination, a little farther east. As usual, I tended too cool in hue and didn’t get the slight warmth in the cloud. There’s a few odd ridges in the paint because this was painted over an old painting.

This is the second painting I’m posting in one day for me, and I’m wondering if it would be better to not post quickly made paintings so often? It’s just that I’m pretty well pleased with the recent study paintings and excited to regain the motivation to make things so often again.

Fleeting Light

Evening Light on Mountains
Oil on canvas, 5″ x 7″

Based on a photo I took last February while on a train in the mountains. The palette is the same as the last painting, mostly using the same piles of paint even, but with the addition of some green earth in the sky to counteract the redness of ultramarine and also some Indian yellow for the sunlit areas.