Autumn Colors
9 x 12 pastel


In my class, we worked on painting Autumn foliage. It’s easy to overdo painting the fall colors in a showy and garish manner. So, we worked on the subtlety of color, value shifts, color harmony and aerial perspective (value shift to create distance.)

Since the photo reference already had a good composition, we did a quick value study while also breaking down the design in various shapes. Since this photo reference was taken on a partly cloudy day in the middle of the afternoon, there are very little value shifts. I emphasized the importance of still maintaining light, medium and dark values to create form giving dimension to the trees. Without it, the trees would appear flat.

We talked at length about underpainting, massing the different shapes in their approximate value. Whether it’s massed in using pastel or watercolor, the thought process is the same.

watercolor underpainting


For the 1st demo, I showed how I use watercolor to mass in my underpainting. Here I set a strong foundation for everything that lies on top. I need good rich darks for my shadow color so I explained how I layer hard pastel to make it even darker and richer. I then used alcohol to blend it (not shown).

The next step is picking out a limited palette of colors and slowly, working dark to light, begin painting with a very light touch.

The background trees, even though they are bright yellows and golds, are painted duller with low contrast and no detail.

The next demo was done with a pastel underpainting. I used the same photo reference and the same pastel colors. Here is the progression using pastels as an underpainting. As you can see, it doesn’t really matter what kind of media I use for an underpainting but it is important to me to set a strong underlying foundation.


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