Sunday, March 21, 2010

Shadow Creek Falls

Shadow Creek Falls is nestled in the southern portion of Yosemite and is part of the Ansel Adams Wilderness Trail. This continues a series of drawings from my son's hiking trip to Yosemite last fall.

Part of the challenge to working with an impressive vista is to decide what to include and exclude. I am posting the reference photo to show you just how complex of a scene this is. Matt does an excellent job taking reference photos. He takes full scene shots as well as zoomed-in areas. He has a great sense of balance and composition that makes his photos a pleasure to work with.

My goal is to minimize the complexity and to emphasize the inter-play between the shadows, the tension of the boulders lodged between the crevices and the water finding it's way under, over and round the rocks.

The first step is to crop the image eliminate much of the 'extras' in the scene. Just this small change makes quite a difference.

Wip 1:

I have started with the distant background of the the mountain range. Snow is still visible on these glaciers in September. The tree line diminishes as it reaches to the top of the range.

Drawing Specs:
Paper: Fabriano Watercolor Hot press
Size: 11x17
Pencils used in the background: 2H flat chisel point clutch pencil and F .5 mm mechanical pencil for the trees.

Wip 2 - This scene has a number of background drops or layers. The mountain range creates two layers, one overlapping the other. Then another group of rocks fall between the range and another grove of trees. These have more form and definition to them but mostly drawn using negative drawing. This means drawing the dark space between the trees instead of drawing the actual trees. Once the tree shape is formed, detail is lightly drawn in to give the tree texture. Pencils used at this juncture are: 2B and F .5 mm mechanical pencils.

Wip 3: The Fabriano paper offers the ability to build up many layers of graphite. Starting with 4H - 2H flat chisel point clutch pencils allows large 'blocks' of shading to be done. Then alternating B and 2B creates subtle darkening. The darkest areas demand a strong application of 2B.

This is just over 1/2 of the image as the falls will continue to emerge down on the paper. I believe the image will remain unresolved on the edges, so the focus of the eye will remain on the falls itself.


  1. This is fantastic, Diane. What you do with the pencil is breathtaking.

  2. Thank you Donn! This is a real challenge with all the detail, but I'm taking it slow and attempting to focus on the overall composition. Something a bit different than my usual approach.