Back to Wyoming in the morning. I used the same reference photo for this painting as I did for my last pastel. I didn’t mess the seasons this time but it looks like spring rather than summer to me. That’s because it’s been such a wet year. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Wyoming so green. The early morning sun on the grass was simply spectacular.
The problem for me was not to lose the forest in the trees. It’s much too easy to get mesmerized by detail and try to paint every tree. Yet the painting must still suggest individual trees and I wanted the emphasis to remain on the sunlit grass. My solution this time was to eliminate detail by using a big brush. The entire painting is done with a number 14 round brush (about three eights of an inch at the shank but coming to a fairly tight point).* Usually I work in numbers 12, 10, 8 and finish with 6 (the smaller the number the smaller the brush).
I did not use mask either. Painting carefully around the lights rather than reserving them with mask forced me to keep them big.
I also used a fairly limited palette: winsor purple, phthalo blue, cobalt blue, quinacridone gold, and burnt sienna. This not only helped unify the painting, but helped me concentrate on big shapes.
But I have my husband to thank for the key to this painting. He came upstairs and looked at it in progress.
“But where would I put the detail?”
“I don’t know.”
Stephen is not good at seeing what to do to a painting, but he’s very good at seeing problems. It pays to listen to him. I thought about it. One classic maneuver is to put a lot of detail into the foreground. I used that approach with my pastel. But my painting was already too abstract to allow much real detail in the foreground. In the end I did two things. I added texture to the foreground and sharpened up the trees just where they intruded on the distant grass at the center of interest. Together the changes created instant depth.
*Actually, I used one other brush, but only for my signature. For that I used a number 2 rigger. Riggers are very long thin brushes designed to make long thin continuous lines without having to repeatedly re-dip then in paint. The name comes from their usefulness in painting sail rigging.