Iceland Thingvellir River and Church Painting

my painting of Thingvellir river and church

I spent two weeks in Iceland in March 2011. I made the conscious decision to visit Iceland in the winter, because I wanted to see the Icelandic winter landscape, and especially wanted to see the Northern Lights.

Thingvellir is a day trip from Reykjavik and is the site where the Icelandic parliament was founded around 930 CE. Thingvellir is the place of a beautiful rift valley and the largest natural lake in Iceland, Thingvallavtn. I went out to area twice during my visit. One of the visits was to snorkel and the other time just a bus trip as part of the Golden Circle day trip.

There is a lot I like about this painting and a few things that give me pause. I laid down a watercolor underpainting and overlaid hard pastels and watercolor pencil on top for the detail. I especially like the depth created on the ice formations with the blue pastel water, overlaid with indigo blue watercolor pencil to give depth to the scene. After some thought, I decided to create the shadows in the snow with a lavender watercolor underpainting and light blue and violet hard pastel for texture and shadow. The ice formations was created with blue, gray and white watercolor pencil and burnished to give the appearance of a smooth ice surface finish.

The parts of the painting that I felt I could improve the most is the background and distance. I could improve the water reflections in the distance. I also realized after the fact that I drew the church way out of perspective. The church looks way bigger in the painting than it was in reality. I feel I need to improve creating a background with depth and texture to make it look more realistic.

This was one of those paintings that I wasn’t sure about when I first decided that I couldn’t make it better, but it did grow on me over time.

Thingvellir river and church

Above is the reference photo I used for this painting. I really loved Thingvellir, though truthfully I loved all of Iceland. It was a remarkably beautiful country. This day was very cold, sunny and bright and it just accentuated the fabulous natural of this special country.

Tokyo Ueno Park Colorful Autumn Foliage painting

Ueno Park autumn foliage painting

 

This painting was the next in line for my autumn creations. I am deeply inspired by colorful nature, so for the most part, when I take pictures, I try and compose the pictures like I would a painting, because I know that I will probably want to paint it later. I selected this picture (see below), because it had the colorful foliage I like to paint, and it was a different setup than the previous painting from Bukhansan National Park. The composition for this painting reminded me of all the perspective drawings I did in art class as a kid. The majority of the medium for this painting was a watercolor underpainting  overlaid with hard pastels. The gazebo was drawn in watercolor pencil.

The most challenging part of this painting for me was to produce a sense of depth in the water to add to the perspective, and also to render the green foliage in the foreground with as much realism as possible. That required me to lay in multiple layers of pastel in different colors. Even then it still wasn’t completely realistic, but close enough.

Like most paintings, this one looks better from afar, and after I completed it, it took a bit to grow on me. Sometimes it takes a bit for me to finally say the painting is as complete as it is going to be. Frequently I am dissatisfied during the actual process of creating the painting, and I often feel that I am not producing the painting on the page that is in my head (and close to the reference photo). However, I eventually reach a point where I can’t think of any way to improve the painting and I call it done. Then, it takes a couple days for me to really develop an attachment to the the painting  and to like it.

Ueno Park colorful fall foliage

 

The reference photo was taken in Ueno Park in central Tokyo when I visited there Veteran’s Day weekend November 2012.  Ueno Park is one of Tokyo’s largest parks and right next to a major Metro stop  (Ueno). It’s a pleasant park to walk around and enjoy different museums, temples, shrines and gardens. This particular picture was taken late in the day and the sun was close to setting. I like the warm, late afternoon autumn light and how it makes most of the backdrop warm, though the cool blues of the water and green foliage in the foreground makes a nice contrast to the yellows and oranges in the background.

Bukhansan National Park Red Autumn painting

my painting of Bukhansan National park sunny red trees

 

Autumn in Korea is my favorite time in the country. The weather is cooler and less humid, which makes hiking so much more pleasant than during parts of the Korean summer when the humidity makes you feel like you just took a shower after stepping outside, and sometimes the monsoon rains gives you a real shower. But most of all, the reason I love Korean autumns is that the landscape come alive with bright, beautiful colors. Korea is a very mountainous country and there are numerous forests populated with trees that change color and foliage for the seasons. These bright colors of nature inspire me to create art.

The art my eye is drawn to, either as a viewer of art or as a creator of art, is bright and colorful paintings. I’ve never been a fan of dark, dreary realist paintings and preferred paintings that pop with color. Likewise the art I want to make is the colorful world around me. This makes autumns the perfect time to capture images to create paintings later.

The mediums I used for this painting were a watercolor under painting in greens and browns, watercolor pencil for the trees, and hard pastels for the foliage. I felt the combination of  mediums would be ideal to achieve the effects I wanted. This was the first time I used an under painting, and I was really pleased with the result for the most part, though next time I should fade out the colors of the under painting more to make the colorful leaves pop to a greater degree. In the past, one of the frustrating things about using white paper for paintings is that the teeth of the paper showed through  and marred the overall effect I was trying to achieve. Putting down the green/brown under painting enabled me to build the trees and leaves on top of the under painting and thus achieve a greater illusion of depth. The viewer can see the green poking through in parts of the painting to look like real nature. The big lesson I did learn for improvement with this painting, is that I should use an under painting for the leaves as well. This became readily apparent when I started to apply the pastels for the leaves. I prefer hard pastels, because I personally find soft pastels to be rather messy. Even though the pastels are hard, they have varying degrees of hardness and softness. The whites, yellows, and even the oranges to a certain degree were reasonably soft and therefore easy to build up layers of color to produce realistic-looking leaves. I ran into trouble with the red pastels though. That color was substantially harder and it was more difficult to apply the red color to the existing under painting. The reds didn’t pop the way I wanted them to, unlike the yellows and oranges, because they didn’t layer well. It was also more apparent for parts of the painting where the leaves overlaid branches. I initially used masking fluid to block out the tree branches before applying the under painting, so when the fluid was removed, the paper was white. Due to the hardness of the pastels, it didn’t build up layers of color easily and the whiteness of the paper can be seen behind parts of the painting. Overall though, I was rather pleased with this effort, since it was the first one like it that I painted. I think I mirrored the reference photo well enough (though it wasn’t a complete duplication), and captured the brilliant reds, oranges and yellows of this landscape.

Bukhansan National Park sunny red trees

 

This is the reference photo used for the painting. It was taken in Bukhansan National Park on a fine sunny October afternoon. The park is located within the Greater Seoul Metropolitan Area, which makes it readily accessible for urban hikers. Visitors can easily reach the park by taking subway Line 3 to Gupabal station, exit 1 and then Bus 704 or 34 to Bukhansan National Park. Just follow the hordes of people in hiking gear to the trailhead and follow the signs for the trails from there. The park’s location within Seoul means that this park is convenient not just to you, but to everyone (approximately 25 million people) in the Greater Seoul Metropolitan Area. While beautiful, particularly during autumn, this is not a place for solitary hiking, so know before you go. Crowds are numerous on the weekends, though if you want to beat them as much as possible, start very early. Yes, there will be early hikers, but they are the serious hikers and not the slow family walkers. You can walk as much as you want and turn around at any point, since the trail is well marked with signs and distances. The trail can be a bit uneven and steep in places, but for the most part, the trail is suitable to regular hikers. One word of advice though. Since this park is reached via a bus and not a direct subway stop, there is a high potential for running into long lines at the main bus stop for the park. When I went, I made it to the bus stop not long after sunset, and it took me an hour to get on a bus to go to back to the subway. The smart hikers in the know walked further up the road to catch an earlier bus stop and avoid the main bus stop with the very long lines. After all, once a bus was full of people from the early stops, it would just drive by the main stop. If you like hiking and love beautiful nature (particularly in autumn), Bukhansan National Park has much to offer for hikers, nature enthusiasts and landscape artists to be inspired.