Moving onto the foothills now and I am introducing a subtle touch of green into the painting. I have to keep this color muted and greyed so as not to contrast too much with the warmer more neutral colors of the mountain. I love how the blued shadows are giving depth to the scene. Some snowy patches have remained lower down in the valley and this also adds interest. I purposely kept the sky simple as I knew there would be plenty of details in the landscape - also this is how the scene looked initially so I wanted to try and capture that sense of wonder and amazement from when I saw it for the first time.
Here the main part of the mountain is beginning to take shape with its interplay of light and shadow. I have also mostly completed the snowy section on the right but will probably have to take another look at that later on when I get most of the mountain finished. At this point, it is a bit like working on a jigsaw puzzle with each section having to fit in seamlessly with the last trying all the while to keep the tones and chroma accurate. Since these stages are separated by a day or so, the thinly-applied paint has dried and this can be a little difficult to work the new wet paint back into it without making it obvious!
Working along the skyline, I continued developing the mountain trying to keep it interesting by using slightly different shades of warm grey and cobalt blue for the shadow areas. The snowy areas in direct sunlight was slightly warmed titanium white. Some smaller patches of snow will be dropped in later when the rocky areas have dried. Working down the mountainside, I slightly cooled the grey that I used for the sun-lit rocks and darkened the snow slightly in the shadow areas. So far so good - still plenty to do on this one but I'm happy with how it's going.
Having finished a few smaller studies, I felt it was time to tackle something a little larger. I had a linen panel lying around so after giving it a few coats of gesso, I did a full-sized drawing on scrap paper then rubbed the back with a soft graphite pencil. This was then turned face up and laid down onto the panel. I went over the lines again with a ballpoint pen which transferred the drawing onto the surface. I don't always do this usually preferring to draw directly onto the panel but I wanted a little more accuracy this time. I then laid in a graduated sky of pale cobalt blue and started on the rocks with a warm grey. Shadows were a shade of the same cobalt blue.
For the most part, we had good weather but with the occasional rainy period. Consequently there were many mist-enshrouded mountain scenes like the one in the small oil painting shown above. I was also able to capture more in my sketchbook and for the ones that changed rapidly, I took a number of photographs - not so much as something to work from, but more of a visual reminder that I could get to later.
This small oil above was completed later mostly from a sketchbook study but also as an experiment to see how this glacier scene would look in a different medium. I'll either do a larger oil or a woodblock print of this. Frankly, there was so much to see, it was difficult deciding what to concentrate on. I found myself doing quick half-finished watercolor studies then rushing onto the next one while being distracted by something else!
On this sketchbook page, there are two quick landscape studies and one of a Canada goose resting in the sunlight. As I had more time I was able to devote more effort to the goose study and later work on it some more in my cabin. I particularly enjoyed its half-closed eye and the drooping wing - all signs of a relaxed and contented bird. This was one individual of a small flock of 7 or 8 birds loafing on a grassy hillside.
Here is the initial sketchbook study of the glacier scene shown in the small oil above. I find it worth while to do a few different studies like this and some even smaller ones playing around with variations in color etc. For me, it certainly helps cement the image in my mind and allows for a more natural progression from sketchbook to final painting.
This small study was one of the few oils I did from the trip but is a good start for some larger paintings. It was done on a gessoed board that I prepared myself. I find these are easiest to travel with being thin and easy to pack. Usually the thin paint dries quite quickly (at least in time before any flights I may have to take) and I can stack quite a few of them safely together for my homeward trip. Watercolors and drawings usually form the bulk of my work on these adventures though.
The oil shown here with progression from a quick sketch on canvas through to the finished painting is my usual method for smaller works such as this. The scene is of the flats just outside Juneau. We saw this layered landscape with drifting cloud soon after visiting the Mendenhall Glacier. Back in Juneau, we took the cable car up the mountainside for an aerial view. The weather was cloudy with periods of rain but we took a hike further up the mountainside looking for birds and other views of the amazing landscape that surrounded us.
There were plenty of Bald Eagles around and I managed this quick drawing in my sketchbook. Watching them in flight around the mist and light rain was incredibly moving, I'm sure I'll start work on some eagle paintings soon. Next on to Ketchikan and Skagway
We had planned a trip to Alaska for some time and were really looking forward to taking a cruise. We landed in Seattle where we had a few days enjoying the city before heading out to the ship. The boarding was completed by early evening and we left Seattle under light rain which eventually taped off and led to a wonderful sunset over the sea - an auspicious first day. The next day saw us under somewhat rough seas that had a lot of passengers heading to their cabins to lie down! Taking a slightly different route than usual, the captain headed to the Inside Passage earlier than expected where the waters were a little calmer - much better for everyone!
I spent most of the time on different decks taking photos but also did quite a bit of painting. Here you can see my travelling set up when using oils. Some time ago, I made a small lightweight foldable easel that I can use on any flat surface and just prop up the canvas panel as I work on it. I also brought along a sketchbook and watercolors for quicker studies. Along the way, we visited Juneau, Ketchikan, Skagway and Glacier Bay National Park as well a slowing from time to time to see other sites of interest. I was able to paint onboard at times with the landscape in front of me and also worked on paintings later on in the evenings.
In Glacier Bay, we were greeted by the wonderful sight of the Margerie Glacier. I did two studies of this glacier and enjoyed the spectacle of milling birds against the ice and deep blue water, the brisk invigorating air and occasionally sights and sounds of the glacier calving. I was constantly awed by the vastness of the landscape and it was really difficult to put any kind of scale to what we were seeing. I found it useful to find trees within the landscape and use that as a kind of measuring stick. Truly incredible!
Most of these sketchbook studies are intended for larger paintings, some of which I have completed thus far. It was heartening to still see plenty of snow on the mountains just as I had hoped. Paintings of this kind have been a wish of mine for years now and finally I was getting a chance to do some!
And if what we were seeing from the ship wasn't enough, we then took daily excursions to other areas when docked at the various ports along the way. This further enriched our visual experiences but more on those trips in the next post.
I am an artist living and working near Washington DC in the USA. I was born in the UK but have lived abroad most of my life. I paint mostly landscapes and birds but have many interests so you never know what will turn up. Most of the paintings shown here are for sale so please contact me at jeremypearse (at) gmail.com if interested. Thanks for visiting!