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I suppose it is time to post some scenes of my home state. Friends of mine have been nice enough to offer their property for me to come out and do some outdoor painting as well as take photos to paint from. This will be an ongoing project for me.  This first painting I did from a photo I took the first time I visited.

  first washes

There was a storm moving in and I wanted to set the tone so I painted the sky, first, using a gray I mixed from manganese blue and halloween orange. I also dropped in a reddish mixture I made from fire engine red and burnt sienna in the upper left quadrant because I knew I might have to balance the red of that out building on the right. I then got busy and applied my first washes to everything so I could see where I wanted the light to fall like I had learned in my recent workshop. This took some time. I also wanted to include yellows to give the effect of the yellow light we get, here, right before a storm moves in. I think that light, combined with the interesting little tree shapes lined up by the big pine, was what inspired me to create this painting.  I posted this stage of my watercolor to share with you how light those first washes are that I apply. All the colors I used for this initial wash would be considered light or light middle colors. I knew my trees in the foreground were going to be my darks and what I wanted the viewer to see the most, so I chose to interweave my lights in and around the base of them. They had funny little puddled shadows underneath and I liked that and  enhanced these things as I worked.

  finished painting

The above is the finished painting after going in and turning on the color with midtones and defining the trees and the far treeline with darks.  This is pretty much what it looked like that day as those dark clouds began to move in. It was pretty hot and muggy so I tried to keep my definition of the far treelines and homes to a minimum so as to reflect that haziness that humidity causes. The sky you see in the final painting is the only thing that I did not add to from the initial washes. I painted the wires of the fence with a hairline brush and blotted it with a tissue, while still wet, to soften the harshness of the line.


  1. Leslie, this is a really beautiful painting. I love your trees and what a difference from the first washes to the finished piece. Thanks for telling us the steps you took to complete this painting.

    • I was hoping if I showed you those first washes, Carol, you could see where I stopped and allowed the paper to dry before going on. This is what I did with the donkey painting. I think when I was painting, before, I was rushing and that is how I ran into the mud problem. Plus, I was hoping it showed how dull the light colors can appear and how bright the painting becomes when midtones are introduced. Thanks a bunch for the comment on these little trees. They looked so like little replicas of the big one.

  2. I like the way you used the red in the fore= ground barn and moved to the other building on the other side, kept my eye moving around the painting like a masterpiece should.

    • Thank-you, Richard. That barn is actually red and it stumped me as to how I was going to balance this painting and allow for the trees to take precedence over it. I then noticed there was red in the distant barn and tried to use reds in my darks in the far treeline to connect and balance it furthur, not to mention throwing some into the gray sky. The red barn had to stay as it was very much a part of the owner’s view there.

  3. i like this one, the little trees have beautiful depth and the light is inviting, very nice Les…

    • Hi Tracey. Thank-you! Reminds me of our time painting together in all places Indiana. 🙂

  4. Looking at your work and reading your post is like attending a mini class for me and there is always something to learn Leslie! I loved the way you have shown the difference between the initial wash and the final result.The dash of red has added warmth to the mood of the painting.

    • Thank-you so much for this comment. I was so worried about that huge red barn but knew I must include it. Yours and Richard’s comment about the red barn has helped me to see that I can include elements in a composition if I plan carefully. You are all an inspiration to me to continue and I learn from all of you, each time you post. I think I posted the two stages because it was one of the things that jumped out at me in the workshop I took. A little planning and careful consideration of my pigment values is helping, I think.

  5. even though this is quite a simple scene there is a lot going on in it and you seem to have captured that really well.
    I like how bold the whole painting is.

    • You hit it on the head, Richard. Simple subject matter. I think that is why I have struggled with landscape for so long. There is kind of an abstract beauty in a landscape. I think I’ve just begun to understand how to select what is important and what is not. Thank-you for this comment.

  6. Love the stormy sky. It looks gray without being dull and flat. It looks deep and rich.
    Here is a technical question for you, do you mix your owns greens or do you use some from the tube?

    • Yay! Thank-you! You and I have talked about these washes of that Don Andrews demonstrates. That is what the sky is. It was so hard to smear that gray and orange and burnt sienna across that expanse and leave it alone until it dried! I figured, at first, I had ruined the whole thing. As the painting progressed, I began to see how it fit. He also said we need to include a certain amount of grays and browns to balance our color. I am just beginning to grasp how that works. I must be more brave. Thank-you so much for this comment.

    • I’m sorry. I didn’t answer your question about the greens. If I use them directly from the tube, I introduce other colors I use in the painting into them while the green is still wet. I often mix blues and yellows for greens especially when my painting is primarily primary colors. It just works better. Tube greens come into the picture when I choose predominantly a secondary color triad. I like violet in greens. The above painting was predominantly primary colors. The only tube green I used is that yellowy green treeline in the middle that sits in front of the background darker trees. If you look , carefully, you can see I left that very bland and flat. I felt that it’s purpose was to just divide space. Good question and I hope that helps. If you enlarge and stare at the large evergreen and little trees, you can see cobalt blue, two different yellows, sap green and a hint of red at the base of some of them. Greens from the tube are surreal. Hope that helps. I’m still struggling and learning how to create greens.

  7. lovely painting Leslie! I love the moodiness and mugginess of that sky, subtle yet effective! Great!!!

    • Thank-you, Lynda. Do you get some of this muggy haziness and yellow light where you live in the UK, Lynda?

  8. I so enjoy watching the process of how you paint, and the explanations you offer us!

    • Thank-you, so much, Kate. I still constantly struggle to take scenes and emphasize what I see in them. Sometimes I don’t even know what interests me about them, so it is like a journey not only in the paint but my own perception of things. I have always been fascinated about that aspect of your photography, also. How many adjustments and clicks of the camera does a photographer have to do before the image thought of presents itself. Amazing.

  9. I think painting/photographing an approaching storm is not easy. Here it doesn’t look menacing but more ‘welcome’ for the rain that the clouds are bringing. Yes, it has an expectant feel about the waiting trees and bushes. Like they want a drink! Nice.

    • Thanks, Eva. The storm was coming out of the west which would be the left side of this painting. It was a drencher but not a tornado. And yes, those trees wanted a drink. That was the firt week of our 90 degree heat and we have had several since. The weather is to cool down, so I will be heading out there to paint if rain stays away. Hope it does because I need a break from trying to figure out this creek scene I told you about on your blog.

  10. Great blends of green in the many trees and lawn. The sky looks brooding with color. Always appreciate you sharing your art. thanks

    • Thank-you, Adam. Perfect word for the sky, “brooding”. That is exactly what it looked like that day! Greens are always challenging for me. Thank-you for noticing the different ones I mixed to make this work.

  11. What a great painting, Leslie! I love those little trees. I was just thinking about little pine trees before I opened this post. I’m doing a painting of my jeep and I was wondering what a Christmas scene would be like. I may have to pop one of your trees into the back of my jeep. 🙂

    Your sky is wonderful and the red in it is perfect!!

    • Help yourself to a “little tree”, Beth. I don’t mind, especially in the spirit of Christmas and art it is all very fair!!! Maybe I could suggest the little tree on the far left so its’ spirit will live on through your Christmas scene. I have just talked about how it didn’t make it through the heat spell on my next post:
      Thank-you for the comment!!!

  12. Nice painting Leslie, i really like the tree lines and the movement of the clouds. I think you got the clouds just right. It’s always very interesting to read your blog especially with the explanation and while looking at the painting. I feel like you are walking through it with us on the process, explaning while finishing up the painting.

    • Thank-you, Francis. I think I’m trying to share some of the process in hopes that it might help someone else in their own endeavors or that others might be able to share something that works betterfor them than what I do. Thank-you for commenting on that!

  13. Great painting love the trees a lot.

    • Thanks, Alonso! I just saw your fourth attempt in watercolor. Wow. Teaching yourself is not easy and you are achieving so much without even watercolor paper! I especially liked it that you said you were liking the challenge. I think that is what hooks us with watercolor, don’t you?

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