Painting through the National Parks

Painting the National Parks: Sequoia Roots

Sequoia Roots buy on Etsy

This week I continue my art journey – painting through America’s National Parks- I decided to paint Sequoia National Park.

I planned a trip to Sequoia prior to the pandemic that was cancelled. I planned the trip over several months so while I’ve never been to Sequoia I feel as though I visited the park (at least in spirit).

I will be blogging about ‘Sequoia’ soon on my sister blog American Nomad…in the meantime check out this awesome factsheet about Sequoia – the land of Giants

Painting Sequoia was challenging because the trees are towers of ancient forests – that converse with the sky. Building perspective when the tree cannot fully fit on the canvas was difficult. I studied numerous reference photos and decided to create my painting as an ode to the forest – focusing on the reddish/brown hues and thick trunk with distant trees in the background.

I started this painting with an grounding color of unbleached titanium (one of my favorite blending colors) and raw sienna and burnt umber.

A grounding color does several things:

  1. A blank canvas (with gesso): When I first started painting I would sketch out my image with watercolor pencil then start painting the colors directly on the canvas (as they appear in my reference photo). This always was a struggle because the paint wouldn’t adhere well with the first coat to the canvas. I’d end up using lots of paint and it would be clumpy -not a great look. I tried adding more gesso, but that could make the canvas texture too thick.
    • I learned from Ginger Cook that acrylics bind well to one another, so a grounding layer helps to build your painting.

2. It also ensures that you don’t have any ‘white gaps’ underneath your painting that appears unrealistic.

From there I began to build the ‘King’ Sequoia, layer after layer – constantly looking at the lighting and values in my reference photo.

Details are important, but in my current art journey I really am looking at the values (light and dark); color quality and trying to match that and adjust as needed.

This painting took about 3 hours to complete. A common misconception new artists (or non artists) think is that just because a landscape or painting is impressionistic or more open with brushstrokes – it is simple to paint.

I actually find my landscapes with their open brushstrokes take longer than some detailed paintings just because you really lean into the layers and details of the colors and you are constantly adding small touches.

Landscape painting is like a walk through Sequoia National Park – you don’t need to rush. It is meant to slow you down and be relaxing.

Paint supplies: I use a variety of paints and brushes in my paintings depending on the subject.

I’ve said this on a previous post but you must absolutely invest in quality supplies – yes I understand the cost of supplies is a lot for a beginner – I learned the hard way you’ll spend way more if you start off with cheap supplies. Why? The paint is watered down -so you will have to use a lot more paint to get the same results – so you will run out of paint quickly.

  • The brushes are key – I found my early paintings key have stray brush hairs) and no matter how much paint I put on the brush it wouldn’t spread on the canvas.
  • I had to purchase new brushes at least twice a month – they’d die a quick death – even with good soap and water.

For new painters(and seasoned pros):

  • I really love Liquitex and Liquitex Basics
  • Jerry’s Artarama Soho Paint does well for foundational and accent colors
  • I also love Golden, Lukas, Windsor and Newton Paints, Amsterdam for day to day professional use.
  • There are lots of great brands, but just make sure you are purchasing professional paint.
  • Your local art supply store can help – or watch tutorials by Ginger Cook and The Art Sherpa who break this down in some of their tutorials.

Brushes:

I typically use Silver Brushes – they are may favorite because they smoothly cover the paint and I have good control with the brushes. I also like Princeton, Raphael and I use Soho (Jerry’s)

I usually purchase from Jerry’s Artarama or The Brush Guys; Dick Blick is recommended too

Helpful resources:

Art Sherpa and Ginger Cook great online videos and resources

Thanks for supporting Adele Lassiter Creative by purchasing my art on Etsy