Arboretum shadows and reflections

I was back at the Morgan Arboretum today, pack on my back and rubber boots on my feet. The last remnants of snow have melted so the view is not as dramatic as when I was there on Saturday, but the subject was still worth painting.

It was really interesting to paint this scene on location after painting it from a photo just yesterday. This was a completely different experience. Whereas yesterday’s watercolour was quite stylized and in some ways almost imaginary, today’s is all about the texture and mess of being on location with the added challenge of dramatically changing light and shadow.

When you’re painting from a photo, the scene is fixed in time. Many details are, for the most part, missing or too dark to see. The best example of this would be the darkened ends of the floating logs. In yesterday’s photo those were completely black but when I was on location I could see colour in the darks, including mossy green and brown bits of rotting wood. Plus there was the sensory aspect of the experience — I could hear birds, squirrels and chipmunks in the brush, and the air was fragrant with fallen pine needles warmed by the sun. You can’t discount what all of that adds to the painting experience. This version may be messier and perhaps not as well composed, but the experience was so much richer in so many ways.

23 Comments on “Arboretum shadows and reflections”

  1. jankto says:

    I like both paintings. And I think you summed it up well, this one is richer.


  2. Gretchen says:

    Wow, I can really see and feel the contrast between photograph and plein air! Yesterday was playful swirling spring waters, and today is mysterious awaking from winter. Thanks for a neat demo!


  3. Susie Langley says:

    I like this one — but enjoy both! The water is really good.


  4. Susie Langley says:

    Did you mix your own greens or start with any particular colors? Love the greens


    • HI Susie,
      Usually I mix my own greens but for these two scenes I actually used a tube of Olive Green from Winsor & Newton. I mixed that with lots of blues and Burnt Sienna too. It’s a beautiful colour. Thanks for having a look.


  5. AshleyWolff says:

    I’m new to your work and already a huge fan. You have a wonderful color sense.


  6. Denise says:

    The joy you feel for painting comes through in both pictures. Thanks for passing on that love to us!


  7. Donna says:

    It was the whole experience that you will remember when you see that sketch. Certainly worth the boots and ever changing shadows. Wish I was there.


  8. Paul says:

    Lovely Shari, but how did you get the squirrels and chipmunks out of your BRUSH? (Just kidding :o)


  9. Cindy Wahlstrom says:

    Love the changing light, shadows, and woodland colors. I am always amazed by the color changes I see in the woods surrounding my house throughout the day. There are highlights white as can be on something not white and vivid reds where there isn’t red. Shadows create a deep black where something is normally light. The changes are mesmerizing. Love your painting. I’m working on becoming a better artist to capture the things that make my heart sing.


  10. This is so totally different from the last painting. All that sensory stimulation has such an effect on the outcome of a painting. This is great!


  11. Uma says:

    Good Evening dear friend Shari,

    This is one of your masterpieces.
    Nothing more to say.



  12. Northern Traveller says:

    There’s nothing like actually being out there! And you weren’t being eaten by bugs!!!
    Mary (Toronto)


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