Hiking and Painting the Ledges, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Hiking and Painting the Ledges, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

My sister and I went to the Ledges in Peninsula Ohio at the beginning of October just before the leaves started to really change. Most everything was still green but there were a few leaves starting to fall. We got there just after 8am so the sun was just coming up fully which meant lighting was a little dark in the woods but really pretty once we got to the overlook. We decided to hike the 2.2 mile Ledges Trail which starts from the parking lot, goes down into the woods and around the ledges, then you hike back up, and pop out at the Ledges Overlook. The overlook is one of my favorites in the area. You stand on a large rock outcropping with trees around you and you can see all the trees below into the hazy distance. Since we went in the morning it was really bright, I'm sure it would be really beautiful and serene at sunset or during the golden hour before it. The nice thing is that you don't have to walk the loop to see the overlook, you can walk directly there from the parking lot which is less than half a mile along a flat path. Here are the pictures we took along our hike.


Rock ledges

These rock formations are so cool! These rocky walls and outcroppings are all along the trail. There is even a cave that you can go in sometimes! It was closed when we went for the safety of the bats that live there. 


Rock ledges cuyahoga valley national park

This rock caught my eye...

Rock ledges cuyahoga valley national park

These steps are pretty iconic for the Ledges trail, I would love to do a painting of them someday too. 

Ledges overlook cuyahoga valley national park

I love all of the different types of trees you can see in this one picture. I'm a tree nerd after all!

Let's get into the painting!

I made these sketches first to determine what I really wanted to paint and just for some warm up practice.

This is the sketch I chose to do as a full painting

Here's the reference image that I chose alongside my sketch. I drew a grid on the reference photo and my sketch to be more accurate since there is a lot of detailed lines in there that it is very hard to keep track of. This is the first time that I have used this tactic and it worked really well!

Drawing of rock

I draw on basic (sketching or drawing) paper first so that I don't have to erase on my nice watercolor paper and risk smudging. Also I worry about getting the oils of my hand onto the watercolor paper if I do all that sketching on it. Therefore I just do all the prep work on my plain paper and lightly trace it onto my watercolor paper using a light table. 

I just got this palette recently and I love it! It helps me stay organized and I love having my paints in pans. Up to now I've used a big tray with wells but I think that the paints stay much more clean and contains in the pans. 

Watercolor paint color palette

Here are a list of the main tools and materials that I used for this piece:

Daniel smith watercolors: https://www.dickblick.com/products/daniel-smith-extra-fine-watercolors/

I used these colors: Lemon Yellow, Naples Yellow, New Gamboge, Raw Sienna, Sap Green (Blick brand), Cerulean Blue, Paynes Grey and Buff Titatanium

Grumbacher paint brushes: https://www.dickblick.com/products/grumbacher-goldenedge-synthetic-sable-brushes/

Princeton paint brushes: https://www.dickblick.com/products/princeton-neptune-series-4750-synthetic-squirrel-brushes/#photos

Pentel Pocket Brush Pen: https://www.jetpens.com/Pentel-Pocket-Brush-Pen-XGFKP-A/pd/1793

Tombow Brush Pen: https://www.jetpens.com/Tombow-Fudenosuke-Brush-Pen-Hard-Black/pd/5035

Getting into the Process

So below (second picture down) is my work area, with my reference photo that I am constantly looking back and forth to, my watercolor palette, my water and a couple other random things. Check out the video at the bottom of this page to hear my commentary on the process!

This first picture is the ink that I drew onto the watercolor paper before any painting happened. I drew the lines using the Tombow brush pen linked above.

Watercolor painting table


Here's another process shot. For the most part I used Raw Sienna, Naples Yellow, Cerulean Blue and Paynes Grey for the rock. You can see a little bit of my mixing in the video. I don't necessarily start out with a color palette that I'm going to stick to but as I mix colors I keep record of what I've used so that I can re-mix it as I run out.Process shot of the painting

And after ALL those layers, here it is, the finished painting! I hope you've enjoyed this painting and my process-sharing. I hope that this helps you if you are an artist to get started with watercolors and if you are in the are of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park that you will check out the Legdges trail! I love where I live here in Ohio. We have lots of great local and metro parks as well as the CVNP. If anything I shared in here inspired you please let me know, I would LOVE to hear from you!

Finished painting of the Ledges in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

If you are interested in purchasing the original painting the link is here.

 I hope you've enjoyed my artistic interpretation of the Ledges and I hope that this inspires you to take you own hike along the trail at the Ledges or just got see the Overlook! As always I hope that my art inspires you to get out there and explore!

Here's me standing at the overlook soon after sunrise - it was so pretty!

 What's your favorite trail in the Cuyahoga Valley? Comment below!

Here's the video!

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