Monday, January 25, 2010

Winter on the Ridge Trail - pastel

This latest pastel, completed yesterday, is based on a photo I took in December the first time I hiked one of the local trails here.  I'm not sure if it has any official name, but its descriptive name is the "ridge trail", as it runs along the ridge of hills that form the northern border of the town.  It offers a fantastic panoramic view of the town of Bisbee, along with the adjacent hillsides and side canyons of the area to the north. 

While the trail does primarily run along the ridge, there are areas where it splits, offering the hiker the option to traverse the side and slope rather than go over it.  We had gotten a few inches of snow about two days before I went on this hike, and despite daytime temperatures in the low 60's, the north face where this trail section is doesn't get direct sun at this time of the year.  In addition to the trail itself, I was drawn to the shadows reflected by the snow from the brilliant blue sky.  The distal trees, patches of exposed earth, and winter grasses add some contrast.  This is the first time I've ever done snow in a painting, and I am quite pleased with how it turned out. 

I did change some elements from the photo to enhance the composition, namely, making a bit more snow on the right hand side of the slope; eliminating some trees, and adding some clouds.  I used a very simple alcohol wash underpainting for this, done for basic value shapes, in vine charcoal and white Conte pastel pencil.  I'm trying to get away from excessive blending as I find it dulls the painting and makes it look overworked and less painterly.  So, blending was only used for the initial layers of pastel laid down to sink the pigment into the tooth of the paper. 

"Winter on Ridge Trail" - 10.5 x 7.5"
pastel on 320-grit sanded paper
available for purchase

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