Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Painting on Location at Valley of the Swans

The Creston Valley has also been known as Valley of the Swans. Fortunately a friend alerted me that there were Trumpeter Swans feeding in the farmer's fields on the 'Creston Flats'. This was the first time I was able to see them so close. The first day I went to see them, it was sunny and the water sparkled and the geese appeared so very white.

Watercolour by Eileen Gidman 7 1/2" X 10"
The next day, I went back and set up for painting on location. It wasn't as bright but I wanted to capture what was still in my mind from the day before.

Trumpeter Swans, Canada Geese and Northern Pintail Ducks

My set up. Still a bit chilly for plein air painting.

This is what I accomplished on location.  More darks and details are needed  but there is a freshness that is, for me, often best achieved with location painting. 
I puzzled for some time, days in fact, what made the swans appear so white. The snow was a similar white but it didn't pop out like the swans. I knew I would have to sacrifice some of the whites to draw attention to the swans so I glazed the snow on the mountains with the blue of the sky. As well I toned down the geese on the left and the snow belt between the geese and the trees. 

Those geese still weren't standing out the way I wanted. By chance in the studio, as I was working on final details from photos, I enlarged the one below. Then I could see that the swans were not only greyed on the underside but the were also shadowed with the blue sky colour. Adding that blue made all the difference for me achieving what I had in my mind.

Additional note, even though the geese in the foreground on the left are closer, I kept them soft (soft edges) so that the focus would be on the geese behind the white reflections. The reflections were also glazed very lightly with the sky blue. 

Zooming in on this photo, I could see there was a lot of blue sky colour shading those geese. 
I hope I get some more opportunities for painting swans this spring. Click here for more information about these amazing travellers Trumpeter Swans . I am thankful our valley has the food they need to replenish as they make their journey north. 

3 comments:

Win Dinn said...

What a lovely painting, Eileen - you've captured the crispness of the swans beautifully, as well as the lovely valley landscape. It's amazing how much difference that blue on the swans makes - it literally has that white singing!

Mellowood Gallery said...

Brr! You are intrepid, Eileen. Even though the sun was shining I applaud your setting up to paint at this time of year. This is a charming picture and reminds me of the video the Wildlife Centre used to show of when thousands of swans stopped in the valley. Thanks for the memory!

Laura Leeder said...

Well done Eileen! I think you are in your element when painting plein air. I like the color's and energy in this painting.