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The Sun Drenched Meadow

A few years back I drove past this little farm and the sun drenched meadow had parts of shade and sun due to cumulous clouds drifting by. A part of the meadow was so beautiful and bright with flowers and new spring growth that I had to pull over and shoot a photo. I was drawn to the contrast of light and dark and the red barn in the distance.

This pastel painting is the first in my new series of landscape pastel paintings entitled “The Beauty of Idaho”. The series will include sunsets, mountain vistas, lakes and rivers and more pastures with farms. Idaho is a beautiful state especially the northern area where I live, and so I want to pay homage to my home state.

"The Sun Drenched Meadow"

The Sun Drenched Meadow

Painted on 8″x9.5″ green Pastel Mat paper.

I think the green pastel paper was a great enhancement to the palette and allowed me to use it as a starting point when laying in my colors. I allowed parts of the paper to show through which gave texture to the meadow. On this piece I used an alcohol wash after applying some preliminary color and I can say I am not a fan of this method. The alcohol changed the texture of the paper and gave me some trouble with building up the layers. I won’t be using this method again. I much prefer using watercolor if its necessary, to create a preliminary wash such as on white pastel paper.

Painting the flowers was great fun and I had to be careful not to overdo it! My favorite part in painting the piece was laying in the sun drenched field and creating the shadows made from the clouds. Standing back and looking at the painting on my easel I had a great feeling of accomplishment. The painting seemed to just pop off the easel with vibrancy! I wish you could see it in person, because the photo doesn’t do the painting justice. Photos flatten subjects and one can’t see all the sparkle this pastel has to offer. I think this is why I’ve fallen in love with pastels, the sparkle! Plus, the immediacy of the medium itself and being able to paint intuitively, which suits me the best, is another reason I enjoy pastels.

The Sun Drenched Meadow pastel is available in the gallery. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did painting it! Until next time, thanks for stopping by! Much Love ~ Rhonda

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European Robin in Pastel

Today, I bring you the end of the Birds in Pastel series, with a painting of a European robin. I chose to paint a European robin because of their colorful plumage. Our typical robins in the U.S. are not as pretty as the European variety, in my opinion. The European robin has beautiful feathers of bright orange on the breast surrounded by lovely tones of blue. Their back feathers are that of olive green and brown, and they have a white underbelly. What a wonderful complimentary color scheme and perfect to depict in pastel.

The European robin was painted on a 6″x8″ black UArt pastel board with a limited palette of soft pastels. Since robins love water, I painted this little guy next to a puddle. Perhaps he’s about to take a bath?

European robin

Robins have a funny shaped body, don’t they? They are so fat as birds go; probably because they eat too many worms and bugs! What I love about robins is how they take a bath after they’ve eaten and before they go to bed each night. I think that’s so cute. What I don’t love about them, is they start singing at 3:30 in the morning in the spring and summer. Our local robins migrate and come back in the spring, so that gives me winter as a break from being awaken early in the morning by a robin.

There is one more bird I may paint in this series, and that’s a Western Flycatcher. For now, Im going to switch over to landscapes. This was a really fun series to do and I liked painting the feathers on the birds most of all. I learned if I stroke a pastel stick upwards it makes a perfect feather. I also learned if I get too much pastel on the paper it becomes hard to manipulate and so now I lay it in and call it good. Once is good enough!

Thank you for your interest in my work and I look forward to bringing you more. Until next time ~ much Love, ~ Rhonda

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Song Sparrow in Pastel

This week I painted a Song Sparrow in pastel as a continuation of the Birds in Pastel series. Song Sparrows are one of many species of Sparrow. We have an abundance of Sparrows visit the bird feeder everyday and they sing such happy songs! They take great delight in knocking seeds out of the feeder so their friends can eat too! Those birds that don’t fit on the feeder eat the seeds that fall to the ground. It’s a great idea for the birds, but not so much for us; the feeder ends up empty way too soon! I think since they are typically a ground forager, the knocking seeds to the ground is something they just do because they’d rather eat on the ground. That’s pretty smart if you ask me.

Song Sparrow in Pastel

Song Sparrow in Pastel was painted on 9″x12″ green Pastel Mat paper with soft pastels. My palette consisted of muted cool greens and purples for the background, juxtaposed with the rich warm tones for the foreground. Since the species isn’t very colorful I used vibrant colors to surround the bird to make him sort of pop.

I used my own photo reference for this piece which I was lucky enough to get very close to the Sparrow before he flew away. He might have been an old bird because I felt like I could almost touch him if I moved slowly. He just sat there on the edge of the deck as if he didn’t see me. Or perhaps they are just not that afraid of people, because my husband was able to get very close to a Sparrow sitting at the feeder a few weeks ago:

Song Sparrow at the Feeder

This Sparrow might be a little female. She was sleeping on the feeder when my husband came upon her. I thought about using this photo as a reference but then decided it wasn’t interesting enough. The bird feeder hangs on the side of the greenhouse and adds a bit of whimsy to the area.

Well that’s all I have to share for now. I completed another bird pastel yesterday and will share soon.I’ll give you a little hint of what it is….Blue and Orange feathers. Can you guess what it is? Thanks for stopping by! As always, much Love ~ Rhonda

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15 Sticks and 10 Minutes

Last week I took a little break from my Birds in Pastel series, and worked on an exercise called 15 Sticks and 10 Minutes. The paintings are small landscapes about 4″x5″ in size. The 15 sticks and 10 minutes exercise is meant to help one loosen up and not become bogged down in details. How it works is by preselecting 15 pastels to represent the color palette of a chosen reference photo. Then a timer is set for 10 minutes and one is supposed to complete the pastel painting in 10 minutes. After completing this task, the exercise changes to 10 sticks and 5 minutes. Whaaat?

Well, this was a hard exercise for me! I tried and tried and when the timer would go off, I didn’t have my sky in or most of anything else. Finally, after many tries, I was able to finish a painting within the allotted time. It was a mess but it was discernible as a landscape:

15 sticks and 10 minutes
15 Sticks and 10 Minutes

I was completely frustrated and lamented to my husband how I felt so incompetent at not being able to do this exercise. He asked me a very interesting question after showing him the winter scene above. He said ” Well that’s not bad, but why are we trying to rush it?” I responded that its an exercise to help me loosen up and then he said “I like to know what I’m looking at.”

I agreed and decided to bring the painting to a more finished look:

15 sticks and 10 minutes exercise -
Snow Day pastel painting
“Snow Day”

“Snow Day” is a 4″x5″ pastel, painted on grey PastelMat paper. The reference photo I used was from about 15 years ago and was taken in the Sierra Nevadas. The lighting is awful in the photo because I was passing by this scene midday and had no other choice but to click it for future reference. The colors were greatly enhanced in the painting to compensate for the washed out photo. I like how it ended up as a finished piece.

Here are the other pastel landscapes paintings that were a part of this exercise series:

Dandelion Fields Pastel Painting
“Dandelion Fields”
15 sticks and 10 minutes exercise 
Surf's Up Pastel Painting
“Surf’s Up”

The Road around the Lake pastel painting
“The Road Around the Lake”

(The Tamarack Mountain Studio watermark is not on any original paintings. This is done for online purposes only.)

I won’t give up on this exercise and will be trying out the second part of only using 10 pastel sticks and trying to paint in 5 minutes. That will be interesting for me!

Currently on my easel is a pastel of a Sparrow that I’m finishing with highlights and details, for the Birds in Pastel series. I will share the new painting this week.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a great week! Much Love ~ Rhonda

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“Standing Guard” Pastel

“Standing Guard” is the next painting in the Birds in Pastel series. This new painting showcases a beautiful Buff Brahma rooster standing guard while a female eats her crumble.

The photo reference I used for “Standing Guard” is by a photographer on the website Pixabay named Klimkin. He takes beautiful photos and the Pixaby site allows free use of photos as long as the photographer is given credit. So be sure and give Klimkin a visit!

I sketched out my design in a sketchbook beforehand to get a sense of my values and palette colors. This practice helps me greatly in working out the composition first and foremost. I decided to omit a few of the foreground items in the original photo to give emphasis to these beautiful birds. I used graphite for the notan sketch then moved to watercolors to get a sense of hues for the piece.

Sketchbook notes for "Standing Guard"

I am happy with the overall outcome, and love the vibrant colors of the buff Brahma chickens, which the pastels were a perfect medium to depict their beauty.

Standing Guard Pastel
“Standing Guard”

(The Tamarack Mountain Studio watermark is not on the original painting.)

I love chickens and used to own three Buff Orpington hens. I raised them from week-old chicks and had so much fun with these sweet docile chickens. Their names were Barbie Q. Chicken, Rose T. Chicken and Fry D. Chicken. Get it? Anyway, in our neighborhood we’re not allowed to have chickens, but we got some anyway and put them discreetly in the backyard. We have wild turkeys running loose already, so what’s the diff?

Well, all was going well and we were getting three eggs a day and then I realized I was now confined to home and couldn’t leave to go on vacation! Someone has to gather eggs daily to keep the hens from becoming broody, or worse, eating their eggs! Since we weren’t technically allowed to have chickens I couldn’t very well ask a neighbor to take care of them should we want to go out of town.

I kept up the care of my sweet girls all summer and stayed home. No big deal. Then one day one of the chickens decided she was a rooster and began to make loud calls every morning. This was not going to go well if one of the neighbors complained, even though the wild turkeys roaming the neighborhood are just as loud. But I felt guilty and so we gave them away to a local farm.

I miss my girls. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted and the fresh eggs were so delicious! But, I was free from the confinement of home and they were well cared for in their new farm home. The new owners gave us free eggs every week which was very cool. Here’s one of the girls:

Barbie Q. Chicken Buff Orpington
Barbie Q. Chicken

My husband wants us to have chickens again, but I don’t think we will. The neighborhood is growing with a lot of new people building homes and I feel we need to stick to the rules of “no farm animals” allowed. But hey, a cat can be considered a farm animal as well as a dog, right? And as I said there are herds of wild turkeys roaming around so what harm can having a couple chickens bring? But then I’d be back to square one of not being able to go out of town, so that’s a big No to the chickens!

I have a few more birds I want to paint in this series; a sparrow and a robin and then I think this series will be finished for awhile. My attention will turn to landscapes and sunsets in pastel for the next two series. I’m enjoying working on a series since I’ve never done so before. I’ve always just painted whatever my attention was on that day, but working in a series is keeping me disciplined and motivated.

Thanks for stopping in and until next time, much Love! ~ Rhonda

  • Red Cardinal
  • Blue Jay in the Forest Pastel
  • Back Capped Chickadee Pastel
  • Black Capped Chickadee in the Snow
  • Hummingbird and Lilacs
  • Rufous Hummingbird
  • Blue chested Hummingbird
  • Standing Guard Pastel