Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter landscape - river boulders, pastel

A pile of rocks, dead grasses, shadows, and some ice...
Boulders and Shadows
12x12 - pastel on black cardstock
© S.Johnson
Taken a few days before we had our recent snow, this is a small inlet off the main river that, facing north, managed to hang on to a surprising amount of snow.

That serpentine shadow running across the ice and disappearing into the shadowed area?  Wayne didn't much care for it, but it is from an unseen tree, and it fascinated me, so I kept it.  This was a good painting to work with lost and found edges - something I find myself enjoying when I look at paintings.

And, there's black in this painting.  Many artists/instructors will say that one should avoid values 8-10 (with 0 = pure white and 10= pure black), but as with all things, there are exceptions.  Shadows within shadowed areas are black.  Judicious use of black also helps define the relative values of the rocks and gives them proper depth.

Here are a few photos from some of my recent "duck hunts" down by the river.  I always say that if you're having a crummy day, just go watch some ducks.  You'll feel better.

Mallard pair
He has just finished a "yoga stretch" with his right foot.  How on earth they can handle standing and sleeping in water that is just a few degrees above freezing is beyond me, but they clearly enjoy cold winters.

Common Goldeneyes taking flight
These are very striking birds, but extremely wary; any approach towards the edge of the river and they take off
Balancing act
Okay, not a duck, but this Canada goose and its mate were both one-legging it on some exposed rocks close to shore
Squadron of Common Goldeneye - two males and several ladies
Taken from well above the river, this is the best in-water photo I could get of them.


  1. So intricate and beautiful, Sonya. I love the fragility of the snow-covered grasses with the boulders. And I like the serpentine shadow, too. So glad you decided to keep it!

  2. I like the different textures, especially in the snow and ice. It looks like you did this on a lighter stock and added black, rather than working on black stock?

  3. You really got great complementary colors/values!

  4. Hi Helen - we are over half way through winter, which is exciting, but I'll keep painting it for a bit longer.

    Hi Darla - thank you so much. I also liked the contrast of the grasses with the boulders, and what they represent in terms of permanence, shapes and colors/temperatures.

    Hey Dan - thanks; I think the textures are one of the things that draws me to these winter scenes (consciously or subconsiously...not sure). They're a fun challenge to paint. Re the black paper vs. pastel: sometimes, I will use exposed paper to define the darkest areas in a painting, but there are two reasons I didn't for this: 1) the paper isn't designated as lightfast; 2) the dark of the paper isn't quite dark enough (especially after I sand it), and it's smooth, so reflects light.

    So, that pitch-black Senn that sits in my tray gathering proverbial dust (and lots of pastel dust from its neighbors) finally got to see some game time. It provided that perfect amount of inky, non-reflecting black I needed.

  5. Hi Pam - thanks! Winter landscapes seem to provide lots of those orange-blue compliment sets, don't they?

  6. Love the new painting Sonya, that serpentine shadow is just so interesting. I'm glad you kept it in. ANd the thing I think I like the most are all the different tones and values in your rocks. Very cool.

    And pish posh about what some instructors say. I use bright white and judicious amounts of black in just about all my paintings. Oh snap!

  7. Thanks, Crystal - I'm glad others liked that curious shadow. And I was pretty chuffed at the way the rocks turned out, too; they have all these colors and patina going on that always intrigues me.

    Get down with your bad self thumbing your nose at The Rulz by using black and white: how risque - I love it ;)!


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