I’ve painted this scene of Belfast a couple of times already but each time it turns out a little different.  I’ve been commissioned to paint a similar piece to my previous ‘Going Home’ with the same lighting and the hares in the foreground.  I’ve changed a few details but on the whole the piece has turned out quite close to my previous version.

I hope you enjoy my progress on this one and also some photos from the beautiful Black Forest in Germany where I am travelling at the minute.

Home to RoostThe finished painting 27″ x 15″ soft pastel.

Progress1It has been pretty hot this past few weeks in Germany.  This particular day it was 34 degrees celsius so I decided to move my easel outdoors.  After I dipped Brocci in a big bucket of water to cool off I sat down in the shade to try and work.  I also laid some of my prints out around me as many other campers come strolling past and wander over for a chat.

Progress2This is my rough line drawing on the sandy coloured velour to begin.  There isn’t much I can actually draw in for this apart from the mountain line, the cranes and the occasional building to give me some anchor points to go by.  I’m working from a photo I took of Belfast in a beautiful sunset but for the buildings I’m not too bothered if I include each one exactly how it is.

Progress3Here you can see my previous version of this painting which I have on my business cards.  This gives me something to go by and I’ve started by blocking in the areas of colour on the sky.

Progress4This is the first days work and I’ve managed to get the sky well blocked in with some detail in the clouds left to do.  I’ve also blocked in the mountains and begun to create that gradient of light across them.  Working on velour means I can use thin layers of pastel rubbed lightly onto the paper and blended into the layer beneath.  For this technique to work I must have a certain amount of pastel down before the pigment will move around.

Pic1Sharing some pictures from Baden Baden at the North of the Black Forest.  I loved this city and we have stayed in this area for a few weeks now with no intention of moving yet!  It’s definitely my favourite place we have visited so far.

Pic2A little bridge in one of the lovely gardens in Baden Baden.  Brocci pretending she’s in Monet’s garden.

Pic3Quirky colourful buildings everywhere.  The vibes are so friendly in Baden Baden, I definitely recommend a trip here if you’ve never been.

Pic4In the evening we go up Merkur Mountain the lazy way!  This cable car takes you to the very top in 5 minutes…then you can have a cold beer and enjoy the view!

Pic5At the top of Merkur Mountain

Pic6On our walk back down the mountain we saw this cabin…my dream house for sure!

Pic7The Paradies Cascade in Baden Baden

Progress5Back to my painting the next day and I’m working more on the sky and the mountain range.  Lots of thin layers well blended in give a sense of depth and create the light effect.  Because I’m only using thin layers I’m also not filling up the paper too much.

Progress6Working on the first layer of buildings where the light is most misty.  As the buildings come forward in the composition they will get darker and more in focus.  I want the whole city to be quite blurred and misty as the hares in the foreground will really jump out.

Progress7Working from the left to the right a lot and top to bottom.  This means I can lean my hand on the blank areas without smudging my work.

Pic8The following day I meet up with a fellow artist who lives in the Black Forest, Katja Sauer.  We met through Facebook and I’m a big admirer of her work.  She also paints animals and works with Unison pastels so we have a lot in common!  She took us to her favourite part of the forest with her dog Lia and we had a wonderful afternoon hiking up for spectacular views.

Pic9This is Katja with her Lia and me with Brocci.  It was a scortcher!

Progress8Working forward in the composition now and more the buildings come into view.  The palette is so limited in this piece.  It’s really only a couple of purples, blues and oranges that make up the entire piece.  I also use Unison Grey27 for that brightest area in the sky.

Progress9Beginning to get a feel for the buildings now and it becomes easier the more I add in.  In this version I have included a wider panorama than in ‘Going Home’.

Pic10We stayed a few nights in Rheinmünster (I love that name!) and met a couple from Belgium.  Herman was a talented photographer who took some shots of me in the surrounding countryside.  I feel a bit awkward being on the wrong side of the camera but I will treasure the shots he took of me and I don’t think I looked too uncomfortable in them!  Check out Herman’s photography at http://www.clabau.be/

Pic11These were my two favourite shots from the afternoon.  The corn fields were everywhere and made a really interesting backdrop!  Not to mention the brilliant weather we’ve been having!

Progress10Back to work again and the foregound is next to go.  It feels good to get that line of bushes in and start adding some green grass. I want the viewer to follow the hares through to the city and then up to the crows who will be scattered over the sunset.

Progress11This area in the middle gets a blast of light from the sunset and keeping our focus on the area where the hares are.

Progress12These hares were actually ones I photographed running through fields in Scotland.  I used them for their poses and unlike in ‘Going Home’ where three hares sit, I thought I would make one little hare late to the party.  Here I’m using the sharp edge of a blue Unison pastel to create the outline on the right side.  I’ve used a pale orange for the sunlit side of the hares and blue to contrast on the other side.

Progress13I also make use of a paper tortillon to neaten and sharpen the edges of the hares.  This really makes them stand out from the background where everything is blurred.  My final stage is to add the crows and I draw these out on a seperate piece of paper and transfer them on very lightly.  I then use a pastel pencil to outline them and block them in.  Over this I use some of my darkest purple just to soften the stark black of them.

Pic12While I’m driving I tell Andrew to make sure to snap some pictures out the window of where we’re going.  This was a beautiful drive although in our old vehicle from 1987 we are in 2nd gear going up some of the hills!

Pic15When we reach our camping stopover at Erberbronn we aren’t disappointed.  Sometimes we stay in camping sites so we can wash some clothes but this one is worth it for the scenery too.  We even have some noisy goats across the road from us.  That’s our camper ‘Freda’ in the foreground with the stripey awning out.

Pic13The forest walks around these areas are wonderful!  The only downside is having to de-tick Brocci when we get back!  They seem to be everywhere here!  We’ve also been ate alive by mosquitos…but those are the downsides to being in nature!

Pic14I hope you’ve enjoyed my progress on this piece.  I struggled to get online most of the time and to do this blog I cycled 3km from the camp site to a hotel called Wasserfal Hotel.  I didn’t know if they would have wifi available but I hit very lucky and met two lovely guys who work here on their way out to the shops.  They kindly let me in to work while they were away.  Such is the generousity of people you meet on your travels.  It definitely fills you with hope that there are so many good people around! 🙂

My next painting is going on the easel this evening so make sure to check back soon for more arty travels…