Sunday, August 25, 2013

Some Plein Air Pieces

I finally got to go out and do some plein air painting this week! Plein Air - meaning outdoors on location - has become quite popular in the last few years. For me it has been an excellent way to train my eye and hone my skills. You have to paint quickly as the light changes fast. It also helps you learn to edit, edit, edit. Find a composition quickly, and ignore all the extra detail that doesn't tell the story. When I'm out I also take lots of photos. From these and the pieces I paint out there I can make bigger studio pieces. The photos help me capture a moment and fine tune the drawing, but its the color where photos really fall flat. The detail in the shadows disappears, the colors get simplified and blued. And then there is that subjective aspect. Standing in a location for a few hours you get the feel, the smell, the sounds. All that becomes a memory and back in the studio you can relive those feelings as you paint. And if you keep the painting, every time you look at it you are transported back to that place and time. It's a great thing!
So here are the two I did this week... Next weekend I will be spending 5 days painting in the Columbia Gorge! Can't wait! Now if I can just get over this summer cold :/

Calling this one "Shades of Summer" It is 9"x12" acrylic on canvas. The cut fields were such a rich golden color and the corn tall and ripe. This is Sauvie Island just to the north of Portland. Somehow the color just feels extra vivid out here. A lovely place to paint!

 Also done on Sauvie Island, a couple of days later. I was really feeling the clouds that day and wanted to spend some time trying to capture them. The whites of the clouds are actually yellowy goldener than this photo. It strikes me that when you paint from a photo you not only lose color subtlety in the reference, but also again when you photograph the painting! The sun was peeking through the clouds and lighting up different spots. I chose the time it lit up the bank of trees on the left. Painting clouds is a bit like herding cats! Talk about changing quickly! But still fun.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


I'm working on another video this week, thought I would share some snapshots from my progress. I make these videos for my free teaching website: It's my attempt to encourage other painters, from very beginners, to paint! I post teaching videos, and we have forums where you can post your own paintings for helpful ideas from myself and others. I love the world wide scope of it. We have regular posters from Ireland, Australia, Newfoundland Canada and all over the states.
Videotaping brings its own challenges - and I'm learning as I go! Finding a camera angle that gets the painting, the palette, but not me! is a challenge. In this one I'm trying a new angle that I think is working pretty well. I also have to work fairly small for it to work. This painting is an 11"x14"

These are snapshots taken from the video:
Here is the block in stage:

It is a scene of a sunlit bank of the river, reflecting into the river, with shadowed foreground trees.

At this point I am done with the far bank of trees:

And now with the river and little islets in the river

 And starting the trees and foliage in the foreground - interesting how the lighting in the video changes as the light outside does, it got much cooler here. It was more overcast outside. I have south facing windows in my studio, not the best, but at least the sun doesn't shine straight in at any point.

And adding more foliage:

This is the point where I let it sit and then decide what to change.
1. I wish I hadn't put so much foliage in, I covered up too much of the background. I'm going to go back in and recover some of it.
2. The value of the foreground foliage is too close to the shaded Islets in the river. I think I will lighten them up a bit to get some distance.
3. There is a lot of the canvas texture showing in the foreground foliage, I don't have enough paint there. I like to build up some texture in the closest areas and it is all still pretty flat. More paint!

So, off to work on those things! And I thought I was done.... pshaw. :)

And here's the final product! The video is up in the August Classroom on my teaching website - here's the link: August Classroom. If you haven't signed up as a member, it will lead you through a simple sign up process. It's free, so no worries there!

"Reflecting" 11"x14" acrylic on canvas.