Ann McMillan Art
Fine Art in Color

Studio Blog

teaching resources and studio blog

The Story of a Painting

This motif, Vernal Falls in Yosemite Valley, is a favoriteMcMillan_TrailtotheSpringtimeFalls_12x12inches_pastel composition of mine.  I have worked with it, plein air and in the studio for many years.   The original plein air work has been lost to time-- the first sketches had powerful parts, but did not survive in the harsh environment of the studio.  The pastel below was completed from a photo taken by by sister-in-law and from plein air sketches I did on a trip to the spot.  I hauled by gear up here and fell in love on arrival.  I did some sketches of the falls in late summer, when it was just a creek falling down a big wall, but I love it in spring when it roars. I went home from Yosemite and painted this 30 x 40 version of the composition with a palette knife.  It came out quite well.


I can never leave well enough alone, so I started another version, hoping to refind some of the magic of the original square 12 x 12 format in a larger size.  Here is an old photo and a recent photo of the same painting.  You can see that I have softened the constrast, while increasing the drama in the composition.  The painting reads better but still is unfinished.  There is still something vital missing.  I see this process as a good lesson in how far from true observation you can get.  What this painting needs is a lengthy visit to the place and a fresh look at the primary materials.  Time for a long hike with a heavy kit and a raincoat up to the falls.

Up the Mist Trail to the Spring Falls, 48 x 48 inches, oil, ongoing.