Golden Hour

At 5 o’clock, the sun was already low on the horizon, casting a golden light that would blaze for a short while more and then vanish. After eight hours at my desk, I quickly closed my laptop, picked up my sketchbook, and headed to a nearby preserve to immerse myself in what remained of a perfect fall day. I didn’t walk far before being surrounded by the colors of the season. Dark trunks of old sugar maples cloaked in a perfect glory of yellow, orange, green, and russet lined the old carriage road that marks the boundary of the preserve. I wish I could have taken you along to see the display, but this sketch will have to do.

Tips and Techniques—Sometimes you only have an hour (or less), a perfectly golden hour, in which to make a mark on a page. Tackling a big subject like a line of trees and fall foliage wouldn’t typically be my go-to subject for such a short time. But because it was truly THE subject of the moment, I decided to take the leap. Eliminating the more complicated branches of this scene made it more doable—though I wish I had included just a little more height. I sketched in the trees in pencil and painted the colorful leaves and ground with a waterbrush while on the path. The impression of color and light seemed like the most important element to capture in the moment. Back at home, I added the dark trunks and shadows. The thin border and text were important finishing elements, containing the sketch and anchoring it in time and place.

13 thoughts on “Golden Hour

  1. I’m learning from you all the time. This time I noticed how your closest tree trunk has the most detail and the darkest darks. I can almost feel the late fall day. We are near the CA fires and the smoke pall is so bad. You’ve brightened my day!

    • Sorry the files and smoke continues. What a trial for everyone! I’m glad you are learning from my sketches– good looking on the trees. The added detail and dark on the foreground tree is intentional. You can do that with any subject where you want what’s in back to appear more distant.

  2. You’ve added great interest and eye appeal in a simple line of trees. Painting the background first allowed some of the color to fall on the first 3 trees…like sunlight. It is a great study and invitation to “get up and get out“ to paint even if only for a short time!

    • I had to deliberately do back in and add some color to those trunks to warm them up after painting them too gray at first. I’m glad you noticed– there’s always more color on the trunk and old bark that first meets the eye. I got out today to paint the last of the garden. You’ll see that soon.

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