“Walk in the Woods”—that’s not just an idea, that’s an imperative! Take the time, go and do it! I’m so glad I did.
Time was running out for the amazing leaf color in October 2022, and I’d really wanted to take some time more than once when the leaves were at their prime to at least capture some photos if not actually paint en plein air in the woods. I’d been wanting to round out my Seasons Along the Panhandle Trail collection with more autumn artwork for several years. But a hip replacement and then just time during autumn, my busiest time of the year with customer graphic design work and vendor shows on many weekends, didn’t leave much time for walks in the woods—one of the reasons I’d fallen short in my autumn artwork in the first place.
A friend who walks the same trails every day shared some photos from the upper trails of yellow trees full of sun and we agreed it wasn’t going to last. I knew if I waited even to the weekend the brilliant yellow that lit the upper woods along the trail would be on the ground. I played hooky one afternoon and ran off into the woods. From the bottom of the hill to the top it was all as amazing as I imagined it would be.
I painted one small pastel that day but knew I’d return to these photos in the early months of the year when my schedule slowed down. I knew I’d have to stock up on my pastels to paint these, though. For both illustrations and commissions I’d run low on a range of greens and oranges and warm browns in all varieties of the pastels I use.
In January we learned of the passing of a member of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators, a longtime artist and illustrator and instructor; his wife wanted to offer his equipment and leftover media to our group. I claimed a professional mat cutter and a few other pieces of equipment. When I went to pick it up I discovered among the media there were pastels, lots of pastels, the colors I needed, the brands I used, and more, including the Rembrandt brand set of 90 Landscape Pastels that I’d wanted since the early 90s but always bought smaller sets. When I first set things up and began to work I was overwhelmed by all the new pastels to get to know.
I decided to start small and celebrate with something from the autumn collection. I painted this smaller sketch from one of many photographs that helped me capture and remember what stopped me in my tracks as I walked on that upper trail, where the sun was hitting the tree canopy above me and the leaves glowed, lighting the woods and highlighting the trails where the leaves were packed down by humans, deer and everything else that walks the woods. This view faced back toward a ravine with just enough blue mist to give a cool complement to the warm yellows and oranges and umbers and silhouetted the tree trunks.
In the process I organized and reorganized the new pastels and the old pastels and now I can’t wait to paint more. I have at least three waiting in the wings.
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