Near and far in Paradise

The views along the Yellowstone River in Montana are almost too beautiful to paint. Looking at this scene early one morning, I wondered how I could capture all of this with my paintbrush — the fast-moving river, the distant mountains, the yellow hills, trees both near and far — but the answer is always by thinking about values. In fact, the late-summer scenes I saw in Montana were often a study in values and I could have spent the week just painting in Payne’s grey. In this valley, no matter which way you look, everything is about the near and the far because there is always a backdrop of hills in the distance. Colour is secondary, in this place, at this time of year.

The first step in a scene like this is to break down the puzzle pieces (and there were many of them) into a value pattern. My pattern is quite simple: a few pencil lines to break down the rectangle into big shapes, followed by a single colour sketch (in this case Neutral Tint) of the five values that I might use to paint the scene. No details in this, just big shapes. Once that is done, I have a roadmap I can work with for the colour version. And if I’m lucky, a little flexibility with detail to add in a few fishermen too.

17 Comments on “Near and far in Paradise”

  1. Lori Zajic says:

    This is soooo great! Thanks for sharing how you go about starting. I think that it is one of the hardest things for me. Noticed I said “ one “ of the hardest🤣

    Lori Bryan Zajic

    All Things Interior Live Beautiful! Sent from my iPhone



  2. Paul says:

    Masterfully accomplished👍👍.


  3. TonyU says:

    Wow – what a scene! Noted re the road map Shari … but it helps to be able to navigate and drive as well as you can too!


    • Tony, it really was an incredible scene. And even though it seems like a sort of lazy river, it flows really quickly. I had barely done a pencil outline of the fishermen and they were already gone!


  4. Denise says:



  5. This is so beautifully captured Shari! Maybe you would like to see my new watercolor series I am currently working on! This is the link to my latest post!


  6. Marta says:

    These posts are so beautiful and helpful. Thanks for the tips!


  7. Excellent sketch and excellent advice. And so timely, as I look out my back view and wonder how to get that on paper. Mind you, there are no mountains and no river running through it, but there’s still beauty, near and far.




  8. Northern Traveller says:

    Shari – you go to such amazing places! This is a great lesson – thank you.


  9. You make it look effortless! Beautiful work!!!


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