(With thanks to The Pastel Journal where this was originally published.)

Granite Tranquility, 18' x 12”

The mysterious mirror image of the world glides over the surface of the water, an elastic likeness that swells and shrinks as the water moves beneath it, an elegant, fluid edge where light and dark diverge. Water’s quiet reflections add refreshing color and sparkle to your paintings.

Pastel is well suited to painting reflections, feathering over many soft, light layers of silken color or finger blending thick, buttery layers to achieve a subdued likeness of the real world.

You must first consider your point of view when painting reflections. How high above the surface you are will determine what you see reflected. Perhaps you remember from your high school physics class that the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection. This handy phrase will be of real help when you come to understand how it applies to your painting.

If you paint only what you see and never make changes, your painting will most likely contain believable reflections. However, if you decide to diverge from reality and add a tree over here or delete a hill over there -- something artists do quite regularly -- you need to understand how your perspective affects what is reflected.

Imagine a large pond on a clear, sunny day, with a few clouds floating overhead. Grasses, trees and hills around it. If you are standing at the shoreline or sitting in a boat the angle of incidence will be fairly shallow, allowing you to see a clear reflection of the grasses and trees lining the bank and perhaps the low hills behind. If, on the other hand, you are standing on a hillside looking down into the water, the angle will be much steeper, allowing you to see more of the sky and clouds overhead and little or none of the shoreline details.

As you come closer to the pond or move away from it, the angle of view is affected. The reflection you see depends on your relative distance from and degree above the water line.

To understand more clearly, place a mirror on a table and raise and lower your head, noticing how the reflection changes. As you lower your eye level you can see the items closest to the edge of the mirror’s surface. As you raise your head, creating a steeper angle of reflection, you can see more of the objects that are high above the mirror, even those that are almost directly overhead.

Notice, too, how the objects reflected change as you approach the mirror or back away from it. The nearer you are to the mirror’s edge the higher you can see, and the farther back you are the more you can see the low details along the edge.

Take some time to conduct a few experiments with a mirror to help you visualize your point of view when painting reflections and better appreciate how important it is to identify the angle at which you are seeing them.

Have you ever stood at the edge of a pond and found yourself leaning out over the water to be able to catch a glimpse of the fish and rocks beneath the surface? As you look almost straight down into the water you can see more clearly without much reflection obscuring your view, except perhaps a very pale reflection of the sky above you. Conversely, when you look out at the distant surface of the water in the middle of the pond, you generally see only the sky reflected. The angle at which you view the water’s surface will determine the amount of bottom detail and reflection to paint.

Reflections, subdued by the water, have an otherworldly look. This is partly because all the values shift slightly due to the diffusion of light, as some of the reflected light is scattered.

Acequia's Mirror, 9" x 12"
To accurately show this shift in value, paint light values slightly darker, dark values slightly lighter and middle values close to the same. This means there is somewhat less contrast in the reflection, though the degree to which this is visible depends on several variables.

If the reflection is in still, very clear water that has little or no sediment, the values of the reflection may be nearly identical, with only an incrementally small change. The more sediment there is, the more there is a shift in color and value, whether it is from the whitening effect of glacial runoff, the rich earth colors seen in water stirred up by a current or the tea-like color of water steeped with leaves and bark.

Bear in mind that a photograph will almost always be deceptive, leading you astray by averaging the light, oftentimes resulting in a nearly identical reflection with hardly any shift in values. When you are out on location analyze the reflections you see and notice the slightly muted contrast.

To begin painting still water reflections, first paint the object and then record the local color of its reflection. If the mountain is lavender, it is a good idea to put a touch of the same lavender into the water and if the tree is yellow, add a breath of yellow there. Later in the process you can make it more believable by softly layering, blending or feathering the surface. Begin with a light touch so that you have room to adjust using subsequent layers of color.

To achieve the liquid sheen of a reflection in clear, flat water, try feathering over many layers of pastels. You will need at least three or four light layers in place, already capturing the color, value and shape of the reflection. Then use a pastel pencil or an extra soft thin vine charcoal stick to gently whisk over the surface, as lightly as you would use a butterfly wing while trying not to damage it. A particularly long piece of charcoal will keep you from bearing down too hard and making gray marks in the pastel, although some graying will occur. This can add to the illusion by reducing color and contrast, and is a valuable method to achieve the illusion of still water reflections.

Finger blending is another technique that can be used to create believable reflections. Use a quick stroke downward over several layers of color to get the slightly smeared quality often seen in reflections. If blending on sanded paper, be careful to have a pillow of pastel beneath your finger so that you don’t abrade your skin.

Keep the reflections of upright, vertical objects straight, and make sure leaning objects lean in the same direction. If the tree leans to the right its reflection also leans to the right. Remember that the sky is reflected upside down, too, so blend from light blue at the distant shoreline to dark at the bottom of the page, where the zenith of the sky may be reflected.

To help you paint accurate reflections, turn your painting on its side and compare the alignment of objects with their reflections. Be sure that the reflections are directly below objects -- or in this case, directly beside them. Also keep in mind that all vertical items, across the width of the entire painting, will be reflected parallel to one another if they are parallel in reality. Don’t let your reflections lean needlessly or converge anywhere.

While your painting is sideways, visually compare the length of each object to be sure you have accurately portrayed the length of its reflection. In perfectly calm water, reflections are not elongated, so if the water begins directly at the base of the object its reflection is no longer than the object itself. You must carefully judge the amount you see reflected of anything farther from the shoreline.


In moving water the reflection becomes broken by ripples, which makes it appear somewhat longer than the object. The amount of distortion is determined by the degree of movement in the water. These reflections have a rounded, fluid shape that can be painted by carefully adding pools of light into the dark areas and dark into light areas at the edges of the reflections. Pay close attention to the scale of these strokes, making sure to match them to the relative distance, large in the foreground and successively smaller in the distance.

Moving water can delightfully skew the shape of reflected objects. Tall straight items, such as the mast of a boat, can become a series of liquid loops or circles detached in the water. In Surrounded you can see how the reflection exaggerates the shape of a nearby lamppost until it is virtually unrecognizable.

Botanical Pond, 9" x 12"
One of the delights of painting reflections is that objects can be revealed that may not otherwise be visible in the body of the painting. For instance, in the painting Summer Reflections you can see the clouds overhead reflected in the center foreground, broken by the wet sand. Although the painting has a few distant wisps of clouds behind the mountains, the reflections indicate a white cloud higher overhead.

Objects that are not in the line of sight of the viewer might be seen in reflections, such as the underside of a dock or boat, or the feather patterns of a duck. For instance, the details of a tree branch that reaches out over the water may be visible, showing the leaf patterns and colors reflected in the water. Bright fall reeds or hillsides covered with colorful trees may be evident only as reflections.

To envision how to paint gentle, reflective ripples on a lake, think of the ripple as having a little mirror on each side. There are basically two reflective shapes, the front and back of the ripple, with the front side pointed toward you and the back pointed away. However, keep in mind that each mirror is supple and bends in all directions easily, curving and shaping reflections fluidly.

The ripple will reflect objects in essentially three different ways, depending on how far out in the water it is. In open water, in the center of our imaginary pond, the ripple will reflect two distinct areas of the sky, perhaps varying only slightly in color. This might be a reflection of the sky near the horizon and at the zenith, so it may be pale blue and slightly darker blue.

As the ripple nears the overhanging trees it will reflect the green of the tree on one side and the blue sky on the other side. The sky color depends on what portion is reflected, and different ripples may reflect slightly different parts of the sky, so be sure not to make these a uniform blue.

As the ripple comes under the tree branch it will begin to reflect only the tree. Perhaps one side will reveal the dark of the trunk and branches while the other reflects the lighter green of the leaves. Pay close attention to these fluid reflections and consider what is being seen in the mirrors of the ripples.

If you are painting a larger body of water that is moved by the wind and has a broken surface, notice that the ripples in the near water are farther apart and larger. They recede into the distance to form a pattern or texture that looks much like tweed. Use small dashes of the characteristic colors to create the illusion of windblown water, noticing the amount of reflected color you see there.


Shadows and reflections are independent of one another. As you walk around your imaginary pond, notice that the dead tree protruding from the middle casts a shadow that remains stationary but the reflection shifts to follow you. Stroll around until the view pleases you. Compose with this in mind.

Poblanos Reflections, 18" x 12”

When there is a shadow cast directly over the surface of the water one of two things will happen. Sometimes the shadow will darken the water, obscuring all reflections and darkening the entire area. When this occurs, paint the shadow colors in the water locally without any reflections. A shadow becomes particularly dark when there is a lot of sediment coloring the water, making it somewhat opaque. Take care not to rely on a photograph, since it will frequently over-darken the shadow.

Far more often a shadow cast over clear water allows you to see under the surface, breaking the reflection so that you can make out the bottom.


When you can see into the water, begin with the bottom layer, painting anything beneath the surface -- rocks, plants, fish, mud or sand. Do not neglect to paint the shadows cast by objects in sunlight under water.

Next paint anything you see on the surface of the water. This includes reflections, ripples, sparkles or shadows.

Then paint anything that is on top of the water, including dry rocks or reeds that protrude, logs, leaves, foam or anything else floating there, such as a boat or duck. Basically, paint from bottom to top layers, noting the local color of each object. The final addition of little touches such as tiny ripples where a rising fish disturbs the surface, or where the water bubbles over a submerged rock, completes the illusion.

When a reed or stalk of grass protrudes from the water you will see a slight change in direction of the stalk itself. This is because light bends when it enters the thicker water, moving more slowly there. The result is a little jump in direction, seen directly at the surface of the water. Be sure that the color of the reed beneath the water is somewhat darker to give the illusion of it being submerged. Its reflection in the water can be a pleasant surprise, a satisfying convergence of directions.

Puddles can also add an appealing dimension to a painting. Place a puddle in a low spot on the ground to reflect an area of particular interest. Puddles are so shallow that you see the color of the dirt showing through, influencing the color of the reflection, which can appear very delicate and pale.

Whether you paint a puddle or a pond, an inlet or a lake, take some time to study reflections. Use layering, feathering and blending to make soft, still water reflections, or precisely execute the sharp, liquid reflections of rippled water. Carefully consider your angle of view and how this affects reflected objects, and then let the beautiful, fluid world of reflections enhance your paintings.

Loose Reflections, 12" x 18”

The world's most beautiful yachts

This Super Yacht built by the German building site Lürssen for a Saoudi Sheik is now the property of the Roman Abramovitch rich person who spent 254 million euros to acquire it.

Giga Yacht "A"... One of the world's most beautiful yachts

This 387 foot, 150,000,000 Euro Yacht belongs to Russian Billionaire Andre Melnichenko. Apparently, fueling this behemoth costs around $1,400,000 alone (Doesn't make sense, must be an extra large tank


Luxury Retreats is your source for the most luxurious and well appointed yacht charters in the world, guaranteed to make your sailing holiday an unforgettable experience.

Yacht or boat rentals are a unique way to explore some of the most beautiful and interesting places in the world. Relax in the luxurious surroundings of your floating palace while it gracefully transports you from port to exotic port. Revel in the romance of crimson sunsets at sea with your loved one or enjoy the company of all your friends as you lounge on the deck. When you rent a yacht, the journey is just as enchanting as the destinations.

An outstanding cruise vessel in Phuket, introduces you the world of turquoise Andaman Sea. With the modern standard and traditional design, Siam Junk will create an amazing luxury trip to exceed your expectations.

The 73 ft Predator 72 Splash (shown below), will be on offer in Cannes, current asking price $2.3M. In view of declining yacht prices, the vendor should be very flexible.

The Sydney Hobart Yacht Race

Maltese Falcon Designer's 1920s-Style Superyacht Inspired by JFK

Ken Freivokh, designer of the famed Maltese Falcon, the world's largest, most high-tech, beautiful and costliest sailing yacht, has gone classic for his latest project, the 1920's-inspired superyacht Sycara IV (above). The 151-ft. luxury yacht, built by the Burger Boat Company in Wisconsin, is designed to cruise the Great Lakes in high style and is partly inspired by John F. Kennedy's yacht the Honey Fitz. The aluminum-bodied craft resembles a classic wooden motor yacht with a schooner bow and fantail hull. The Art Deco-inspired interior woodwork is a masterpiece of handcrafted mahogany and madrone burl, with ebony, sycamore and padouk accents highlighted with stainless steel details in scores of inlays and moldings. Lalique bathroom fixtures are the finishing Deco touch. Of course she's also equipped with every bit of state-of-the-art tech you'd expect in a modern superyacht

every tow years the Rolex Swan Cup transform the water off the coast of Sardina into a sea of competitive racing.


(With thanks to The Pastel Journal where this was originally published.)

Pyracantha, 18" x 12"

Light is the life of a painting, but shadows define the light. Leonardo da Vinci wrote, “Shadows are the manifestation by bodies of their forms. The form of bodies would not show their particulars without shadow.” If we think of “bodies” as objects in the world, Leonardo’s statement is clearer: Objects cast shadows, which show form.

Without light there is no shadow, so the source of the light and its direction become key. The sun casts soft shadows down a wall, showing the path of the branch and leaves overhead, as well as the uneven shape of the wall. Some parts of the shadow are sharply etched; others are silky soft, the degree of detail dependant on the distance the shadow travels.

Value is perhaps one of the most important considerations in painting shadows, requiring the artist to carefully choose just how dark or light a particular shadow is.

The color of a shadow often almost defies description. Gray is too simple to depict a complex blend of colors and will not do justice to shadows.

Because pastels are a semi-transparent medium they lend themselves to the subtle transparency of shadows. Whether put down in soft layers or gently blended, pastels make beautiful shadows.

In landscape painting the source of light is clearly the sun, warm and yellow, casting shadows across the land and other planes. Because we have only one sun, shadows are cast in only one direction. However, sunlight may be direct or reflected, which can account for the mystery of shadows. Reflected light can add delightful complications, causing variations in angles and colors. Look for the mingling of sharp, crisp shadows created by closer objects and the fat, rounded shadows from those farther away.

Indoors, warm or cool lights cast shadows of varying depth and color and, when combined with available daylight from windows, may cast shadows in different directions.

“In the shadows the mysteries dwell,” da Vinci is said to have remarked. Master of chiaroscuro, he used deep, dark shadows to focus the eye on areas of clear light, creating depth and mood in his paintings. He did not neglect the mid-tone shadows, however, understanding that “shadows can be infinitely obscure or display an infinity of nuances in the light tones."

To paint the fine distinctions that can be found in shadows you must first select their proper values. Look for the nuances da Vinci mentions, the variety of shadows from the deepest crevice to the most insubstantial whisper of shade from a distant cloud.
Sun Streaks, 8" x 17"
Gaze into the light area and analyze a shadow’s value using your peripheral vision to perceive correctly the proper tone of even the most delicate shadow. When you stare into shade your pupils dilate and your eyes adjust to the dimness so that over time you can almost see in the dark.

Make use of your peripheral vision even when using a photograph, to aid you in seeing values more accurately, but be aware that the photograph is at best inaccurate. If you rely on photographs to decide the value of the shadow you can easily be led astray. The camera is a far less sensitive instrument than the human eye and averages the available light, resulting in overly dark shadows.

Take time to look at shadows, recording their values in your mind’s eye, rather than copying a photo. That way, when you use a photograph you will remain independent of it and remember the relative transparency of shadows.

All shadows are transparent, except when no light is present in them at all. Most shadows allow the viewer to see details and colors within them, though not to the same degree as in the light plane. If they were not transparent our world would be reduced to pure black and white, all light or all shade. Instead there are degrees of shadows and only some are inky black.

Twilight Crossroads, 8" x 17"
When painted correctly, a shadow does not look like something that has been laid over an object. It becomes an integral part of the object. If the shadow looks like a sock draped over the wall it needs to be more transparent. Only in the deepest darkness are shadows so thoroughly black as to become opaque, and those are usually found in outside at night or in a very dark room.

The value of a shadow becomes progressively lighter as it travels away from the object casting it. Shadows are darker where they originate and lighter where they end, due to the addition of light reflected from the sky or ambient light in a room.

As a broad generalization, the shadow side of an object is somewhat darker than the shadow it casts, due to this addition of light in the horizontal plane. However, this can be affected by the local color of the object, so that a white wall will not be as dark as the shadow it casts on green grass.

Shadows are all around you. Take a moment and look at a cast shadow, noticing how it becomes slightly lighter as it moves away from the thing that is casting it. The deepest shade is where the shadow begins.

Shadows are subject to the laws of aerial perspective, and so become lighter in value and cooler in color with distance. The shadow of a cloud cast at your feet is darker than the shadow of the cloud on distant mountains. Likewise the shadow in the near foreground of a still life is a degree darker than the one farther back in the composition, though this may be almost imperceptible. Still, as the artist attempts to capture the air between near and far objects, the degree of difference in a shadow’s value may become key.

The broad penumbra of a shadow may allow deeper shadows within. For instance, think of the concentrated shadows beneath a clump of grass in the shade of a tree or the still life where dense shadows are tucked in the recesses of a folded cloth in shade.

“Shadows should always partake of the color of the bodies they conceal," da Vinci elaborated for us. Shadow colors depend on the objects that cast them and that they are cast upon.

Evening Complements, 11" x 11"
To keep your shadows colorful but believable try this recipe: Imagine the local color of the object upon which the shadow is cast, slightly darkened by the shadow and somewhat blued by the sky if outside, or by the color of the light source inside.

This recipe will work for you as you begin to paint shadows, but as with any recipe, you should flavor it so that it becomes your own. A good cook knows that the recipe is a great starting point, but it needs the personal zest or subtle variations of the chef to make it special. Do not slavishly adhere to it; add a few dashes of colors of the correct value to spice up your shadows.

Oftentimes what color to use to begin can be a difficult decision. What color is that wall or the sidewalk in shade? It might help you to settle on the color of the object in sunlight before trying to determine the color of the shadow. If the wall is pink, darken it slightly; add a little blue and you get lavender. If the wall is yellow, darken it and add blue for green. White? Darker and bluer becomes light blue. You get the idea.

Remember, however, that a yellow wall does not become a green wall just because it is in shadow. You must always be sure to add a bit of the local color, in this case yellow, into the shadow area, selecting the proper value.

If you are still having trouble choosing a starting point, try standing back from the subject and simply naming one color. Walk away from the shade or a few steps off from your photograph. Name a color on the color wheel. Purple? Green? Remember that gray is not on the color wheel, nor is brown.

With distance you won’t see as many of the nuances of color and will be better able to name one simple color to use. Once you name it, run to your easel and find that color and begin there. Start with a color, then flavor it to make nuances of gray or brown, if necessary, or retain the freshness of whatever color you choose, as long as it is the correct value.

When painting interiors, the color of the light source can greatly influence the color of cast shadows. A yellow or pink spotlight casts a warm glow on the object, often resulting in warm shadow colors. Conversely, the overall luminescence of fluorescent light casts a cool light and soft, cool shadows. Neon light casts a bright glare, but generally has little power to cast shadows, leaving only a soft pool of shadow glowing with the neon color.

The strongest color is often found in the half-light areas of a painting. Where the object is flooded with light the color is bleached out, while in the dark shadows color is lost, leaving the transition areas of half-light to half-dark colorful and descriptive. These can be the most beautiful portions of your painting, telling your viewer more about the color of light and shadow than they realize.

Some people see the color of a shadow as complementary to the color of the plane on which it is cast, an idea made popular by the Impressionists. Of course, if you stare for a long time at any color you will begin to see its complement as an afterimage. This can work beautifully, but need not be a hard and fast rule. Be adventurous and try different combinations of colors to see how they work.

Closely examine the edges of shadows. Sometimes you will see a slightly warm quality there due to the afterimage, which leaves a halo of complementary color along the edge. This might suggest some great color ideas to you as an artist and result in exciting shadow colors.

Sidewalk Shadows, 12x18”
At their simplest, shadows on the ground could be described as basically cool in color because the cool blue of the sky is injected into them. Shadows on any vertical plane, such as the wall, are often somewhat warmer in color because light reflecting from the ground may bounce into them.

The idea of a recipe, therefore, is only a suggestion to help you begin. Shadows are complex and varied, and the colors used are creative decisions that every artist may choose.

Remember that shadows have no independent shapes of their own. They show the shape of the object that casts them and the shape of the object upon which they are cast. If a shadow changes direction or shape, either the ground it is crossing is causing it or it comes from the object casting it from above. It changes for a reason.

Shadows are crisp and detailed at the root and softer at the end. The farther a cast shadow travels the softer and rounder its shape becomes. The reason for this is the round shape of our sun.

This may be easier to understand if you think about sunspots, where light peeks between the leaves of a tree and is cast onto the ground. These spots will be rounder in shape the farther the sun travels before it hits the ground. The shapes of the leaves will be more apparent the closer they are to the wall. The sunspots will, conversely, appear rounded if the leaves are far away from the wall. This is because the gap where the sun shines through forms a kind of atmospheric lens that focuses the light in the shape of the sun, which is what accounts for the rounding of shadows with distance.

In fact, if you examine shadows and sunspots during an eclipse of the sun, the shapes change to mimic the sun’s shape. The next time there is an eclipse, rather than looking at the sun, pay attention to the shadows cast on the ground. It is remarkable to find crescent-shaped spots and shadows there.

Different media lend themselves nicely to different subjects. Because pastels are semi-transparent they may be lightly layered over one another to create the perfect shadow effect. You can apply a slightly darker, cooler value on your first pass to establish the location of the shadows, then lay several delicate layers of varying colors over that, adjusting to the correct value. Be sure to stroke in a fresh, light touch of the local color, such as the color of the wall.

If you resist the urge to blend, your colors will sparkle with the glow only pastels can give, though some light blending can result in soft transitions of color.

Spend time observing shadows. Look at the shadows on this page, your hands, the table behind it. Shadows are everywhere, defining the light, showing the forms of things.

 Field Shadows, 9" x 12"


(With thanks to The Pastel Journal where this was originally published.)

Rocks and Oaks, 9" x 12"

The world is made of rock, the substance beneath our feet. From the top of the highest peak, across the bottom of the ocean, to the quiet expanse of the desert, rock is the underlying foundation of all. In our haste to paint our surroundings we mustn’t neglect rock, yet people seem to think that rocks are difficult to paint. Many times I’ve heard students lament that their rocks look like baked potatoes or soft ice cream. The cure for such problems lies in selecting rocks that are interesting and have sharp light and shadows on them.

Pick up a rock and hold it in your hand for a few moments. Explore the surface, searching for spots that are coarse and uneven, perhaps interrupted by bumps and holes. Now feel for the smoother areas, sliding your finger around a corner. This may be a piece of sandstone that has been smoothed to a velvety sheen by the action of a stream. It could be a piece of quartz, softly polished to a hazy white as it rolled in the surf. Perhaps it’s lava rock with uneven holes all over its surface, or a chunk of pumice so full of air pockets it floats. Your rock may have been blown by wind, sandblasted to a soft roundness or broken from a larger rock, resulting in a jagged edge. The many colors and shapes of rocks, sometimes adorned with lichen or leaves, offer a solid underpinning that stands in sharp contrast to the supple surroundings of the earth. Whether the angular facets and sharp fractures of granite or the soft rounded shapes of sandstone, the unmoving weight and unyielding hardness of rock must be made clear to your viewer.

To create believable rocks, you must study the characteristic shapes and fractures of the many differing varieties, analyzing their size and texture, fracture patterns and other distinguishing features. Becoming familiar with rocks typical of the area in which you are painting is essential. You might remember the three classifications of rock: sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic. Fashioned in layers, sedimentary rock is made when deposits of various materials are trapped and slowly compressed over time. Igneous, or “fire-formed,” rocks are created when the molten core of magma is extruded through a vent in the earth’s crust or blasted from a volcano and suddenly cooled. Metamorphic rock has been transformed by pressure, heat and water, changing the crystalline structure of the rock itself.

All rocks are shaped by pressure, temperature, erosion and friction. Most notable is the wind that blows dust and sand, smoothing and sculpting rock; the falling rain, flowing water and crashing waves that tumble and carve rock; the scorching heat and sub-zero cold that stress and crack it; and the tremendous forces of rock sliding over rock that pares it away with the ever-present pressure of the earth itself. Time and gravity move and change rocks. They’re slowly pushed up into mountains or sifted down riverbeds and gradually ground away, becoming smaller and smaller. We don’t sense this change because it happens so slowly. Rocks seem stable, constant, firm. It’s this seeming permanence that must first be communicated.

Look for the special way that rocks relate to one another, whether the rocky face of a sheer precipice or a pile of loose boulders that have tumbled together. The weight of rocks causes them to fall to the lowest point possible, often leaning into or on top of one another. Even the rocky faces of a mountainside lean together as one giant cliff, made up of many facets, most often slightly receding as they climb upward. Smaller stones are then slowly sifted into crevices or between and around boulders, creating more visually engaging complexity.

Primary to a successful painting of rocks is some compositional center of interest, perhaps a cluster of appealing shapes accented by strong light and shadow. A pile of dull rocks with dull light on them hardly inspires the artist or the viewer. Search out an interesting outcrop of rocks in your area. This may not be a dramatic scene. It could simply be some rocks in your garden or a few boulders along the road. Photograph and sketch your rocks at different times of day, returning to see how the colors and contrasts change. Note the time of day when sun and shadows are attractive. Familiarize yourself with these particular rocks, learning the intricacies of clefts and the broad swaths of uninterrupted planes.

A shadow crossing over and around a rock more clearly defines its shape as rounded or flat, bulging or smooth. Creeping into fissures and sweeping over planes, shadows often pick out broad niches, rough textures, cracks and other variations that identify these as rocks -- and not as a pile of mashed potatoes. In contrast, mashed potatoes are soft and rounded, with few distinct planes. True, there are rounded rocks, some that even resemble mashed potatoes, but it’s the job of the artist to communicate the hard, unyielding qualities of even these atypical rocks. More often you will paint those that are far more recognizably rocky rocks.

underdrawing, reclaimed Wallis, charcoal
Begin with an accurate rendering of your rocks. If you need to take on the challenge of painting rocks, spend some time looking at, photographing and drawing them. Do an underdrawing or a complete sketch on a separate piece of paper that clearly shows the various planes and details of your rocks before beginning to paint them.

If there’s one aspect that’s key to rendering rocks believably, it’s finding and identifying the planes. Locate three primary planes: dark, medium and light. Where the light strikes most strongly, assign the lightest values. Then select a medium value for the half-light areas, and mark the darkest areas of value where deep shadows occur.

Mass together these value areas into pleasing shapes, perhaps rearranging the rocks in your drawing so that the planes are more clearly indicated. There may be additional values between those you’re using, but simplifying helps distill shapes to their essence. Remember that, generally, light values seem to expand while dark values visually contract, meaning that you may design your drawing using more darks and yet retain a sense of balance.

Observe the colors in each value plane. Most often sunlight bleaches out strong colors, leaving a pale, somewhat washed-out hue. In the shade, rocks are somber and dark, usually lacking in vibrant colors. It’s in the middle tones of the half-light areas that you’ll find the most stimulating colors, depending on the rocks you observe. Think about the colors of rocks in general. Yes, most of us think of gray or beige, which are not inaccurate descriptions. Yet how interested are you in painting a pile of gray rocks? Spend time looking for rocks that have more attractive color, or, better still, challenge yourself to paint admittedly gray rocks using some exciting colors in the proper value range. For instance, in the sunlit area choose pale yellow, pink or peach. In the half-lights use a deeper gold, red or orange, and in the shaded areas use dark brown, maroon or ginger. This can result in rocks that retain their identifying characteristic color yet have spark and appeal to them.

Different rocks are different colors. Consider the great variety of colors found in marble, or the contrasts of sandstone, granite and quartz. Group together a handful of small stones and admire their differing hues, perhaps varying from pink to orange to green. Observe the translucency of one or the striations in another. Notice how they show evidence of wear, some tumbled and smooth, others broken and grainy, and how those diverse textures reflect light differently. See how the colors bounce around in the sunlight, perhaps the glow of a light-colored one feeding into the shadow of its neighbor, making a secondary color that’s a fiery mixture of the two. Studying simple stones can teach you a lot about painting rocks, which can be worthy of painting alone.

It’s best to use a common color throughout the dark, medium and light planes to identify a rock as being made up of a single material. If you select a purple for the shadowed side, be sure to include lavender in the sunlit side. You most certainly will want to layer various colors of the correct value into and over the purples, creating an exciting depth of color, but don’t neglect the identifying color in all the areas of value. Be careful not to paint a rock that’s yellow in sunlight blue on the shadow side and red in the half-light areas or it won’t look like it’s made of the same material. You may choose to contrast colors of various rocks by placing them next to one another, emphasizing the disparity of color or value. For instance, place a purple-hued rock next to one that‘s mainly yellow, or a pale one next to a dark one. To identify a common kind of rock throughout the landscape, utilize repeated colors while retaining a “mother” color, a matrix that defines all the rocks as consisting of the same basic material. For instance, to create the multiple hues found in the Painted Desert choose a mother color, perhaps light rust or dusty pink, and create the muted yellows, reds, oranges and lavenders of the various striations by lightly layering the mother color beneath or on top of all of them.

Shadows can become one of the most fascinating and mysterious portions of your rock painting. Don’t abandoning the dark crevices to a simple line of black. Instead, add deep rich tones of blue, purple or brown. Let the dark planes become lush jewel tones: opulent gold, deep violet, sumptuous maroon and extravagant blue. Darken only the very deepest cracks with an underlying touch of black to heighten the drama there.

Cold River Runoff, 10" x 24"

Standing Sentinels, 18" x 24"

Often rocks are exposed along streambeds and brooks, where the water has cut away otherwise dense foliage. Stony streams abound, though other, similar rocks may lie beneath nearby earth that has not otherwise been disturbed. In rivers the rocks are tumbled and carried along by the action of the water, carved away to show graveled outcrops, ridges and ledges. The action of the water over time has shoved them into relationships with one another, resting together in counterbalanced clusters that resist the never-ending motion. Look for the places where such relationships are clearly seen, perhaps where the boulders and stones lean into one another, surrounded by swirling water. Wet rocks can be exquisitely beautiful. Submerged rocks glisten like multicolored gems. Even rocks that are splashed by a stream show spectacular colors where they’re wet, darker in value and richer in saturation, in contrast to the slightly duller colors and paler values of the dry portions. Again, be careful to retain the overall sense of one color flavoring rocks that are both wet and dry, shifting the values and brilliance of the colors only.

Details can enhance your painting of rocks. The half-light area is generally the plane where most of the details reside. Use lines to draw the eye to a gap or fissure, texturing the surface to make it appear rocky. Don’t over-detail all the planes of the rock, which will destroy the illusion of light and shade. Remember that bright, direct sunlight washes away details in its glare, much like an underexposed photo, just as darkness does in an overexposed one.

Use soft strokes of green foliage to enhance the bold angularity of rocks. The generally warmer colors of stones contrast pleasingly with the cool colors of grasses, bushes and overhanging trees. Even in the parched desert, where rocks prevail, a touch of green refreshes and focuses the eye, pointing to an area of particular consideration.

Rock Pool, 9" x 12"
Study the distinctions of rocks while noting their similarities. Like people, rocks share common characteristics while remaining unique. Enjoy the disparity but search out those universal elements that will help you speak clearly of rocks in your paintings. Find the angular planes that identify this as a rock, distilled to three values to begin. Choose a common color, from light to dark, to create the illusion of one material in all of the value areas, while adding beauty with layers of colors and details that indicate the individual character of this stone. Keep the interest in the half-light areas, where color and detail most often reside. Stop and look at a rock in the same way you might examine a person’s face, appreciating its distinctive beauty.


Painting rock cliffs involves the same rules for painting rocks in general, but in a larger upright plane. To visualize the rules mentioned here, think of the rock faces in a canyon, such as those you find in the Grand Canyon.

As always, I recommend you do a good underdrawing in charcoal on the toned sandpaper, sorting out all the planes of the rock. Find the relationships of the cliffs, how they run into one another and change angles, how the details of light and shadow show depth.

A Place for Gold, 18" x 24"
Start with three values. Find those rocks that are darkest and be sure to get them in place, then look for the medium values, usually where the most color will reside. The lightest values may have to be implied or drawn in with a lighter pastel pencil if you are starting on a dark-colored ground. Be sure you understand where all the various planes of the rocks lie. Look for characteristic fractures, striations and places where wind has worn the rock smooth. Draw in any holes, caves or hollows using light and shadow to indicate them. Draw stains and chelation (where salts have risen to the surface) accurately in order to paint accurately. This is the part of the process where you can resolve any difficulties, simplifying anything that is too complex for you to portray.

Because cliffs are large and upright, usually they will face into or away from the sun to one degree or another. This means that you must identify the direction of the light and stay consistent throughout the painting. Remember that the angle of the sun remains the same, though various rock planes may jut into it or be deeply hidden from it. Shadows have no random shape of their own so be certain that the angles of the shadows and light explain the various rock planes to your viewer. Shadows shouldn’t be too black. Be sure to make them colorful, using a variety of dark blues, browns, reds or purples. Don’t let sunlit areas become overly chalky and whitish in color.

The cliffs may be any color, but around New Mexico we find red rock cliffs. If your cliffs are red you have a chance to use a large variety of pinks, oranges, purples and yellows, even greens and blues. If your cliffs are gray be sure to construct grays using complementary colors in your palette (red and green, blue and orange, yellow and purple combinations) rather than picking up your gray pastel first. If, after layering them or using them as broken colors, you haven’t arrived at a good gray, it’s perfectly acceptable to use gray very lightly over the top, allowing some of the other colors to emerge.

Use characteristic vegetation in your painting to soften edges and contrast with the rock cliffs. Be careful not to obscure too much of the cliff with trees or other vegetation or you’ll lose the continuity of the rocks. Pay close attention to scale. Nothing destroys the illusion of depth like a strangely out-of-scale tree or bush.

To give the illusion of space in your rock cliffs you must remember the laws of aerial perspective. Blue each color slightly and lighten it as it recedes from the eye. Soften edges and diminish details in the distance, and lessen value contrast in the distance. Save the interesting details for the foreground rocks.

Sandia Sunlight, 12" x 18"

The world's quietest places 1

Drink in the energy from this quiet place

You are one with the still water

You are one with the fresh lavender flowers

You are one with the clean air that surrounds you

Walk onto this little island and you are safe

Once you get past the fun of just saying the place’s name—YAP—this Pacific island (take a left at Guam), might just be paradise. It’s a jungle island, with endless coastline, mangrove swamps where giant fruit bats play, and under water, manta rays with ten-foot wingspans glide without a sound. Yap’s entire culture is built on adherence to social peace, so that, according to resident Richard Flow, even playing your car radio too loud when you drive simply isn’t done. “Do it,” he says, “and you’ll come back the next day to find your windshield broken.” So the loudest sound in Yap? Waves hitting the reef, more than a mile from shore. And occasional broken glass

Cape Cod – Massachusetts

Cape Cod may not seem like a quiet place to the uninitiated. After all, thousands of people visit each summer. Take an early morning walk along the beach, though, and you’ll be surprised.


A city without automobiles (now there’s a category we need to add to). Venice has lots of small hotels and quiet mysterious places, even in busy tourist seasons. The population is shrinking, so off-season there’s lots of quiet. The out islands are worth exploring, too. A place of inspiration for generations, the vibes are good and the cafes superb.

The Riverwalk was built as a public project in San Antonio during the 1930's, based on a small walk dating from the early years of the century. It's expanded more recently -- you could stroll the 1930's D-shaped portion in less than a not too hurried hour. A spur was added to the site of the 1968 Hemisfair, and recently a northern extension leads up the river to the public library. The Walk encloses its own world. It is set below the grade of the city streets; it focuses you on the river, the passing boats with their cargo or tourists, the parallel walk on the other side, the shops and entrances, the trees. Street bridges arching above signal the various city blocks, so you are both detached and connected. I first visited it in 1966, when it had been long established, and since then it has changed at an accelerating rate.

Haven of peace
A quiet scenic place where you can feel completely at ease with only bird and insects for company. Every worry in the world disapears when you are here.

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The world's quietest places

The coastline is notable for picturesque limestone caves and grottoes, particularly around Lagos, which are accessible by powerboat. Praia da Marinha, Lagoa was classified as one of the 100 most beautiful and well preserved beaches of the world. There are many other beautiful and famous summer places such as Albufeira, Vilamoura, Portimão, Lagos, Armação de Pêra, Quarteira, Monte Gordo and Tavira

is a city in the south of Germany, near of this city there is one of the most famous castles in the world, Neuschwasntein Castle; it is a beautiful and quiet place, it´s like a fairy tale.

Asolo, Italy
An hour outside Venice (another carless place that could have made this list), Asolo is a perfect medieval hill town of walls and cobbled streets and afternoons of nothing to do but sip a drink in an open-air café. Once home to Robert and Elizabeth Browning, in Asolo, the only alarm clock you’ll ever need here are the songbirds. According to Dr. Cheryl Fraser, “On a circular hike through the hillside farms and vineyards, over the top of the old castle and down the ancient winding stone path, the predominant sounds are the buzz of various insects (I wonder, do they buzz in dialect?) and the beating of my own heart.”

You are looking at a Thomas Kinkade Artwork titled
"A Quiet Evening

The Hoh Valley – Washington
In Washington State you’ll find the rainforests that make up Olympic National Park. This park is known for being the largest area in the United States without roads, which does a lot to keep it quiet to begin with. There’s a special initiative, though, known as the Square Inch Project


Sunstruck City, 9" x 17"

Foregrounds can present a particular problem to many painters, regardless of what is painted there. This critical area can trouble professional artists and students alike. The foreground must function to support the subject of the painting and not distract the viewer’s eye.

Nothing distracts more than a weak, disruptive composition that allows the eye to meander, fixing on nothing and going nowhere. Instead, a strong foreground will lead clearly and succinctly to the focus of the painting, with enough detail to enhance that subject. A weak foreground can destroy the effectiveness of a painting that is otherwise successful. No matter how strong or visually delightful the center of interest, if attractive elements in the ground plane lead the eye away from it, the painting becomes disjointed and uninteresting. If, on the other hand, the ground plane is a bland sea of useless, rambling details, or is so devoid of information as to be visually boring, this area simply fails to do its job.

The fore is often the place where distractions occur. Because the greatest color, contrast and detail reside at your feet, it is necessary to walk a fine line between enough and too much if your center of interest does not reside there. Excessive detail can overburden the senses, heightened darks and lights may attract unwanted attention and strong color might appeal to the eye when it is not meant to be the center of interest. The solution is to take into consideration this key area and arrange the various components in the fore to direct the viewer’s eye, moving it quickly or slowing it momentarily, or perhaps allowing it to rest briefly in an area of quiet calm before moving on. The rhythm and syncopation of this movement is important and allows you to vary the tempo, pace and direction the eye moves.

Think about how you can use the fore to guide the viewer’s attention to the focal area (it may not be just a focal point but a grouping of items) and keep it comfortably centered there. Allow your viewer to arrive at the focal area, providing a visual pathway of some sort. This might be as simple as a trail of light that leads the eye through the foreground, or it could be as obvious as a paved highway with a yellow stripe curving across the land, pointing like an arrow to the center of interest.

It is sometimes tempting to minimize any foreground, cropping the image so that the offending or difficult part is simply cut out. This can often leave the subject sitting directly on the “windowsill” of the painting with no room to travel visually to the subject. While cropping might seem a simple solution, it actually contains pitfalls of its own since the need for excellent composition is often then increased. Instead of cutting out the offending portion, consider utilizing the space to strengthen the painting. The abrupt quality of the painting that is merely a subject and background, with no intervening sense of space, can be confusing. While this composition may be effective and interesting when done by a master painter, it’s not a solution you can rely on for every painting.

Far more often you want to use shapes to give mood and movement to the work, making the foreground a vitally important and motivating part of the composition, an appealing and lively portion that does not distract. Compose with two key ideas in mind: Create depth and keep the movement operative.

There are many elements you can include in the foreground plane to create distance and movement. Consider including a vertical element such as a tree or bush, telephone pole or fence to enhance the illusion of distance. When a vertical object protrudes into the more distant planes above, it functions much like a puzzle piece, locking the composition together in relation to the foreground.

Indigo Mesa, 12x9”
A streak of light and the shadow it casts can draw the eye and change the direction it moves. Overlapping grasses and bushes, large and small, can make a soft transition. Strongly contrasting colors or values, such as a patch of snow or brightly colored flowers, can entice the viewer. A change in plane where the ground rises or falls away can move the eye swiftly or slowly in another direction. Lost and found edges become important in pointing the eye, making a soft or abrupt shift.

Strong verticals create upward or downward movement and horizontals move the eye side to side, while angles can provide transitions between them. The place where these directional elements intersect can be critical. Pay close attention to the X or Y where they meet and maintain the movement in the proper direction.

Be sure to use patterning. Look for the repeated overlapping colors and characteristic shapes found on the ground, such as low-growing grasses, small bushes, flowers, weeds and dirt.

Rather than laboring to paint every detail of grass and leaf, use repeated patterns that are somewhat larger in the immediate fore and become progressively smaller. In the distance these strokes, laid down like tweed cloth with dashes of characteristic color, create a simple texture with muted color that explains enough without saying too much. Oftentimes patterning is the key to solving foreground dilemmas simply because it creates an illusion or suggestion of detail without becoming disruptive.

Keep in mind that the slight graying or bluing of aerial perspective is needed to add to the illusion of depth. The colors in the immediate foreground will be the most saturated, yet there will be times when you must mute them slightly so that they do not compete too much with your focal point.

Conversely, injecting strong color into the foreground can enhance perspective. Remember that as colors recede from the eye there is a color shift as increasing layers of air filter out first yellow and then red. This means that as you look out over a large field those grasses at your feet will have all of the combinations of red, yellow and blue in them, as well as holding the strongest contrasts of dark and light. As the grasses recede into the mid-distance they will first become somewhat less yellow, leaving mixtures of red and blue, resulting in a lavender hue. If the field is large enough, red will slowly be filtered out in the great distance, leaving a pale blueness to the grasses farthest away. (See CHAPTER FIVE -- AERIAL PERSPECITVE)

In fact, at its simplest, the landscape could be expressed according to the rules of aerial perspective as the yellow of the foreground, the lavender of the mountains and the blue of the sky. This formula actually works quite well to express minimally the land and sky.

La Madera, 9x12”
A few ways to break up a foreground include:

• a fence line

• a vertical bush or tree

• overlapping grasses and bushes

• a change in plane

• rocks

• shadows

• a streak of light

• contrasting colors or values

• a reflection in a puddle

• patches of snow

• a road or pathway

• a river or stream

• other interesting shapes or colors

• many other devices

Don't let your foreground be so empty that it looks unresolved. Suggest things, even if you don’t describe them. Don’t be unwilling to add elements to the foreground to move the eye, recomposing to strengthen the painting.

Rim Light, 12x18”