Arriving at the Greek island of Santorini by ship, you have either 2 ways to get up to the enormous cliff face to the beautiful city of Fira and Oia up top.  The nice easy way is by cable car from the port. The way my husband and I took the trip was by donkey, up the 588 zigzagging steps.


view from the top of Santorini

I must admit, the cable cars was the way I had intended to go. Smelly donkey rides was not really up my alley. But since we heard there was an hour wait, we decided to be adventurous. Holding on to the mule in one hand and snapping photos with the other while looking over very low lying walls was a bit tricky. Actually, I couldn’t help laughing my way up the path. It was such fun and a very cool way to see the breathtaking sites below….and not too stinky.


me on the donkey- don’t know the guy on the left – do I look a little bit nervous?!


For this painting, I used a handmade surface of gesso and pumice gel on gatorboard. This gives it the rough surface.  I normally tint the board with acrylic color before applying the pumice gel but this time I left it white (the color of the gesso) so I could do an underpainting in gouache. With the rough surface, you can see the pastels sitting on top of the underpainting below.

photo 3-2

Underpainting and drawing on hand made surface. I had to draw it in blue pastel pencil for I couldn’t see my pencil lines.



photo 2-4

close up view of gouache underpainting

What I didn’t realize before I started was what a pain it was to draw out this complicated design. It took me hours just to do the drawing. Unlike a landscape where you can fudge on the shapes, this drawing had to be precise. If you can get it correct initially, the painting goes so much easier.

Donkey Ride 72

My focal point is the guy on the right and my intention is to lead the viewer up the path. I purposely simplified shapes as much as possible and not get bogged down in extraneous detail. “Simplify” was my mantra….my intent being on the impression of the scene rather than make it photographic.


Sometimes, on those rare and wonderful occasions, paintings come together easily. Unfortunately, this one did not. I think as simple as I wanted to keep it, the more I reworked, rubbed out and reworked. The cast shadows on the ground is what drove me crazy. What helped was when my friend Barbara Jaenicke said that cast shadows in photographs look much darker. I realized then they had to be painted much lighter in value than what was pictured in the photo.


in progress- too dark cast shadows-

in progress- too dark cast shadows-


16 x 20 pastel on handmade sanded board

finished 16 x 20 pastel on handmade sanded board


original reference photo

original reference photo

Enjoying the great view up top. That's our cruise ship below. BTW, I did take the cable car down.

Enjoying the great view up top. That’s our cruise ship below. BTW, I did take the cable car down.

2 thoughts on “Donkey Ride

  1. Love the explanation, all the pics, and, especially, the lesson on shadows/value!

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