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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > January 2020 > Take up the challenge

Take up the challenge

Follow Sandra Orme and create a scene of winter trees with evocative winter light using charcoal and soft pastels

I often find that luck or chance play a pivotal role in what inspires me. Many of my pieces have been created from what I happened to see whilst walking my dogs, rather than from those times I specifically went out seeking artistic inspiration. This piece is one of those lucky occasions.

In the late afternoon, just as the winter sun began to break through the fog the trees lining the promenade near the river became backlit by a gentle diffuse yellow light. Their strong forms were silhouetted against the soft shadows and shapes of further bushes and smaller trees behind them. I was struck by the contrast between their outlines and the winter sun behind them, along with the beautiful limited palette of the scene. I knew that recreating this scene in my favourite medium of pastels and charcoal would have many challenges, the first of which was that the artwork would have to be a certain size to enable me to draw detailed branches in charcoal pencil. When creating the light most of the work comes when adding more small branches in pencil or when using the electric eraser. This is something that is repeated with multiple layers. It’s another challenge – you need to balance this building of layers with making on-going judgements about how much detail you want to have. Keep taking a step back to look at the overall effect. The idea is to create the bold shapes of the trees and interesting angular branches without over-doing the detail and making things too busy. Pick out some branches with interesting shapes that you like and add stronger tones to them; move them to different areas if need be, for example in front of the light. Use your judgement to decide what to include, move or leave out. Do this by not getting too caught up in fine detail. Keep taking that step back!

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About The Artist

Welcome to the first 2020 issue of The Artist. With a new year of drawing and painting to look forward to Paul Talbot-Greaves suggests 12 ways to help improve your watercolour skills throughout the year. Our four-page diary with the details and entry deadlines for all the main open competitions to enter will help you plan your year, while Bob Brandt's advice will help you maximise your chances of success. Watercolourists will enjoy Ian Sidaway's feature on painting the Rockies, Jake Winkle's focus on why good design is essential for an attention-grabbing composition, Julie Collins' colour-mixing ideas for winter trees and Jenny Wheatley's guide to choosing the best watercolour paper for your style of painting. Follow Robert Dutton and Soraya French and used mixed-media techniques to paint landscapes and flowers, plus Robert Brindley demonstrates how to capture light on water in pastel. With demonstrations in gouache, oils - including how to paint noses - charcoal and pastels, there's something for everyone, whatever your preferred medium. Why not make 2020 the year to try a new one with inspiration and guidance from The Artist?! Enjoy!