Inky Yosemite Shadows

Merced River Crop.jpg

This is another post about some of the winter scenes I photographed in Yosemite. I decided to go back to working in my normal setup- standing at my easel with my paper taped down.  There just weren't enough soft forms for me to want to work the other way.  I'd also been having a lot of frustration working really wet into wet, and after 2 weeks of many failed paintings with only occasional success, I went back to the old way.  Sigh.  I'll try again later.  :P

As is often the case, I had more than one go at it.  This first one was quarter sheet-

the reference photo

the reference photo

and my first go at it.

and my first go at it.

After that, I chatted with my better half and decided a few things- I wanted to push the separation between the sunny background and the richer, darker reflections; second, I found the foreground a bit underdeveloped.  I hunted for a variety of photos I had taken from the spot, and spliced them together in Photoshop.  I even took a log that was just down river to the left, and spliced it in to the new composition in the midground-

original reference photo

original reference photo

altered one

altered one

My first wet wash went in.  You can see the simple sketch under it, with some particular attention paid to the log, which I wanted to draw the eye to.  I preserved that little spot of white to allow myself to drop in a warm color there in step 2, but with a clean edge.  In the next step, you can see me laying down some dull, pale warm shadows on the mountain.  The paper is still warped at this stage, so it's got moisture in it, but the surface is actually dry, and after I lay my strokes down I have to soften some of my edges manually, with a thirsty brush.

step 1- the first wash

step 1- the first wash

step 2- a bit of dull, warm shadows on the mountain.

step 2- a bit of dull, warm shadows on the mountain.

Next came the trees.  One of the things that made me grumpy in the first go was that I had this one lone tree that was too tall.  I paid particular attention to them this time, to make sure I kept them all small.  Still, as I put down the foreground trees and the reflections I just couldn't help feeling disappointed- this was not going where I wanted.  The reflections were not quite as fresh and "one stroke and done" as I would have liked, and although I liked the upper half of the pine trees, the stuff down by the water was very chunky.  Still, I pressed on-

 
step 3- the trees go in, and the hard reflections too.

step 3- the trees go in, and the hard reflections too.

 

Fortunately, the river water went in, and i liked it.  Same for the foreground tree, with some Chinese White dropped in, wet into wet. Some of the mistakes began to fade, but I still didn't like the trees to the left.  What to do but go for it?  I looked at the photo and decided part of what I liked was the shaded snow, and that there was a slight shift in value as you added up all those little snowy twigs.  I mixed up some Chinese White and Cobalt Blue, grabbed my handy dandy "dagger" and went about dancing with it This was fun, and I instantly knew I had made a decision I was happy with.  Jaws, failure, grabbing out of-- all of that.

 
step 4- finished product, first stage

step 4- finished product, first stage

 

I submitted this to the Epperson Gallery for the "All Along the Sierras" competition.  But looking at it, I felt that there was too much importance resting on the mountain, and not enough focus on the river, which had always been the reason I was painting this.  After much asking around and taking of opinions, I decided to be a total twerp and follow my own opinion.  I digitally cropped it and have been much happier since then.  Perhaps my darks could be darker here and there for some pop, and perhaps I could show more river, but in the end I've let it be and moved on.  Sometimes I have to live with those sorts of doubts and just start painting something new.