River Wanderings

A few floats on the river inspired a pair of paintings. These are small watercolors that capture the peaceful feeling of being on the water in the heat of summer.

July on South Fork, Shenandoah River, watercolor by Kelli Hertzler
July on South Fork, Shenandoah River
14″ x 16″ framed watercolor.

July on South Fork, Shenandoah River was awarded a prize in the Shenandoah Valley Watercolor Society 36th Annual Members’ Show at VMRC’s Park Gables Gallery. The show will be up through November 4, 2022 . The judge, Susan Rosen, had this to say about the piece: “Really good design leads the viewer way down this creek and then back around again to see the rocky detail in the foreground. Good use of the medium and value contrast. I can feel what it would be like to wade in this cold creek!” Her comment is so appropriate because when I took the reference photos for this painting, I was standing in the water enjoying its coolness on a hot day. Then I just sat right down in the flowing water.

My husband likes to fish the river so I got some nice photos of him to work from. This is a beautiful spot on the river (actually the same area as the painting above) – the kind of place I could revisit over and over again and find a new painting each time. The river drops a bit but the fall line is at an angle to the route of the river so it make several interesting spill areas and lots of little islands. Water level fluctuations dramatically change the scenery. This is a Promising Location because fish often feed at the bottom of a rapid.

Promising Location, watercolor by Kelli Hertzler
Promising Location
12″ x 20″ framed watercolor.

Shenandoah River Revisited

The waters close to home have had my attention recently. I love the reflections, the movement, the way the trees hug and lean in. I took photos of this one in progress, Have a look at the slide show below to watch it develop.

Shenandoah in Gold-web


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I used a very limited palette for this watercolor. One red, one yellow, one blue and in a very few places some burnt sienna. It ends up being a complicated color scheme, though. The complementary yellow and purple might be the strongest. But there is also a triad of secondary colors (orange, green and purple) pulling the whole thing together. It’s all on a half sheet of Arches 300 lb. hot press watercolor paper. And it’s finished in time to hang in my show next week.

Last fall, I painted North River, upstream. This is from the same location, but looking downstream. That’s the North River directly in front of you. South River is coming in from the right (you can’t really see that in my painting – it’s behind the big yellow tree). What you see in the distance is the confluence of those two rivers as they become the South Fork of the Shenandoah. While the reference photos were taken on a evening in late fall, this painting was heavily influenced by a pre-dawn drive by the same spot when I saw the sun flooding the sky with color and backlight the scene before it had risen high enough to peek over the Blue Ridge. (Those distant mountains are in Shenandoah National Park.) I love what happens when I can take a memory and fuse it with a image.



North River Watercolor


This one is finished! It’s a half-sheet of paper (that’s about 22″ x 15″ for the non-painters). I’ve been posting the progress but all the stages are included below.

I’m pleased with this painting because I’ve done a few things better than I have before. The river reflections were somewhat complicated and completely out of my head. I had to think out how everything should look based on past observation rather than direct observation. It was very freeing and the painting benefited by my not feeling like I needed to represent reality. (my reference photos were taken after the leaves had fallen and so doesn’t have this color, lovely light or quite the same composition.) I generally like earth tones and my paintings often are created with subdued hues, but this time I was determined to have clean color show the golden glow that illuminates autumn evenings. Earth tones play a supporting role here.

The view is looking upstream of the North River from the bridge in Port Republic. (Next project is the view downstream.)

Work in progress - North River, Upstream. Watercolor by Kelli Hertzler. All rights reserved.

Work in progress - North River, Upstream. Watercolor by Kelli Hertzler. All rights reserved.

North River, Upstream. Watercolor by Kelli Hertzler. All rights reserved.
North River, Upstream. Watercolor by Kelli Hertzler. All rights reserved.