Category Archives: plein air

canna and coleus / charcoal

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The canna is yellow (the tall stalk like plants) and the coleus is dark blackish red (the shorter plants in the fore ground).

I had a look at the lotuses standing in the sun and decided to find some flowers where I could sit in the shade to draw. It’s not as hot as yesterday, but sweat was still dripping off my hair after walking slowly around the garden. After cooling off on a shaded bench for a while I was ok to draw. And there was a little breeze that was nice. I haven’t been out to draw for a while and I enjoyed it very much.

A lady I know liked this sketch and asked me if I was going to do something with it. I told her I’ll just put it on my blog. Sometimes I do a lot of charcoal sketches before I get something that I want to paint.

The thing I enjoy about drawing and painting in plein air is not in knocking out a painting in a few hours, it’s hanging around in a beautiful place for as many days as I feel like being there. In fact, the painting is secondary in my mind. I’m so thankful I’m not on some kind of art treadmill where I’m under pressure to do fast unfinished paintings for some arbitrary time limit rule some person made up. That would destroy the zen like experience of it. And one of my main reasons for not fitting into the art scene. I don’t care if fast unfinished paintings are in style. I don’t care if all the other plein air painters out there take hundreds of photos then trace their best one onto a canvas and go back and hurry fill it in like it was a coloring book. I don’t have to do that.

I’m not interested in taking a class to see if I can paint fast. I’m not interested in taking a drug to make me keep painting all day either, because a drug is the only way I could ever get that kind of energy. So, there you have it friends, apathy to the art world in a nutshell. hahahahahahhaha

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A Good View at Agecroft Hall / oil

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It’s the most zen place in town.  I’m not a follower of an Eastern religion, but it’s easy to pick up the vibe. That’s one of the benefits of painting in plein air. I have a reason to hang around under a tree like Buddha! hahahahahah

I started on this painting a month or so ago and finished it last week. The trees changed faster than I could paint them. I could keep going and going making corrections but decided not to because I’m starting on the next painting  now.

The banana trees were taken out of the garden before I finished painting them, but I had enough of a start that I could finish them at home. I liked them in the composition. They wouldn’t have lived through the frost. Now they’re in a greenhouse.img_1813

This is what the scene looked like to my camera when I got started. I drew it before I took the photo. The photo looks a lot different than what I drew, so I’m not sure if my perspective is right or if the camera’s perspective is better. I decided my painting doesn’t need the  hedge and close up fence that show in the photo. It might be too much darkness on the bottom of the canvas for a good composition.

The James River isn’t showing in the photo, but if you step 15 feet to the right you can see  it and I wanted to show it in my painting. I hoped after the frost I’d be able to see more of the river when leaves came down, so I mixed my colors for the river and painted it in, knowing I was going to cover it with trees and have small peaks of water showing. I used my artistic license there. If I copied the photo the river wouldn’t be in this painting.

That’s Willow Oaks Country Club golf course on Southside.img_1814

This is my underpainting in gray.

You can see where I stood my easel under a Magnolia tree and sat on the ground on an old beach towel to mix my colors. Cones were falling off the tree all around me but didn’t hit me or my painting. I kept my hat on just in case I got hit because those cones might hurt my head. It’s not as scary sitting under a Magnolia as it is being under a Walnut tree. I avoid the Walnuts trees! hahahahah  Trees dropping cones are a part of the life of your plein air artist. Is that a zen thing?

 

 

Gazebo With Fall Foliage oil

Painting in plein air is my therapy.
Painting in plein air is my therapy.

I enjoyed it so much, sitting on the thick root of an old Magnolia to work on this painting. It’s kind of a Zen thing for me.

I’d be more comfortable standing up to draw and paint, but I walked all around the gazebo and thought the best view was  more uphill from it, under the tree. A big branch was partially blocking my view so I had to move around  too see. I decided not to paint the branch that was in my way, but I also enjoyed the way the leaves glow when the sun shines through them. Have you ever noticed that? This painting wasn’t about the Magnolia, though.

If you look in the other direction from there, you can see the end of the Italian Garden, with a stone wall and roses. It smells sooooo sweet, even in the end of Oct. I’m going back to that tree next year.

What I don’t get is, why am I on this beautiful path alone?

Soy Beans With Crepe Myrtles / oil

building texture with a palette knife
building texture with a palette knife

At York Academy of Art, (long ago) our teachers told us to vary the textures in our paintings. This helps make the viewer’s eye move around the canvas. Heavy texture is fun to paint and to look at, but you need a smoother texture to contrast with the heavy palette knife texture, and to give the eye a place to rest.

I painted in the couch, the way they taught us to paint at YAA, which means you put a layer of Maroger Medium on the dry canvas in the area you want to paint that day. Then paint on top of the medium with color. The paint slides so nicely on the Maroger Medium, which is what the old masters used. I have a tube of Alvi’s  Maroger Medium. It’s great to work with. Sometimes when I get home and sit back and look at my painting, I see things I want to correct. With this medium, you can just wipe the paint off without destroying the dry layers of paint underneath. Also you can thin your paint and make glazes, or go thick impasto on top of the medium.

You can use the palette knife in different ways. Use the flat side of it to spread your paint like butter, to cover a larger area. Or you can dab in thick chunks of paint with the tip of the palette knife. But the technique I use most often with the palette knife is to blob in some glazes of paint with a brush on top of the medium and scratch through the paint with the palette knife to make lines and textures.

The James River From The VA. War Memorial / oil

james river from war memorial

I was sitting on top of the hill there at the War Memorial to work on this painting. It’s more comfortable to stand up at an easel, but I was in plain sight of 1000s of commuters on 2 busy roads. Also, people working in tall buildings could see me there in the sun on the hill. Sitting down makes me feel less obtrusive in the scene.

When I did my 1st charcoal sketch for this painting, I drew a pile of logs in the river, then later decided to eliminate them from the painting. But, in reality, the logs are there in the river providing a habitat for all kinds of wildlife.

You can see the Southside floodwall and the pilings from the old bridges that got destroyed. Plus the Manchester Bridge and railroad bridge.

Rose Garden ’15 / oil

2 important things I learned from gardeners without having to ask
2 important things I learned from gardeners without having to ask

#1   ”  We can only do this because we’re rich.”

#2    ” It’s not work if you don’t HAVE to do it.”

I though about it later. This is what happened.

When the Tulips wilted all at once , the volunteer gardeners at Lewis Ginter Botanical pulled them out and replaced them with Summer flowers so fast. I was amazed.  As I walked past them and saw the new plants going in, I said to the gardeners, ” OMG , You guys work fast! ” and “Nice work, you guys!”

They were all on the ground digging the dirt. A man said to me, “We can only do this because we’re rich.” I laughed and told him, “I’m in that club too!” hahahhaha

Then another day I was sitting in the shade mixing up my colors, and some guys were pruning the roses in the hot sun. One of the volunteer gardeners was very friendly and talking to people walking through. I heard him say, “It’s not work if you don’t HAVE to do it.”

Which answered one of my questions, because I can’t decide if art is “work” or not. I still don’t know. Do I HAVE to do art to keep my sanity? Does that make it ok for me to call it “work” even though it’s so much fun and it doesn’t pay?

We could debate that subject, but it sure looks like work to me what the gardeners do!

Old Barn Still Standing / oil

Here's a little story for you.
Here’s a little story for you.

This barn is at the Windemere Gallery in Mechanicsville VA. The man that owns the gallery is Robert Dugan. He’s a nice man and welcomed me to paint there. He told me the barn has a lot of history.

The 1st day I worked on my charcoal drawing on paper. I heard a noisy crow and looked away from my drawing. The crow was chasing a Red Tailed Hawk. Now, it’s not unusual to see birds doing funny things when you go out to the country to paint, so I didn’t think too much about that. I find that a lot of times, I’m alone and see something unusual and have no one there to say, “Did you see that!” or “What just happened!?”

This is the strange thing. One day I was working hard on my painting for a while and stepped back to look at it. I saw a TURTLE COMING STRAIGHT AT ME !!! It was walking slowly, but aiming for my feet. It didn’t look like it wanted to bite me. So I just stood there and watched it. It came over to my feet and looked up at me! I waited for it to say something, but it didn’t, so neither did I. hahahaha I thought it looked like it wanted me to give it food. All I had for a snack that day was some mini doughnuts that got smooshed in my art cart. I decided not to give it a doughnut because I thought that might make the turtle thirsty and it was kind of dry out there. After a minute or so, the turtle walked away, leaving me wondering. Of all the turtles I’ve seen in my life, this was the 1st that wanted to be my friend!  (or did it?)

When I was ready to go home, I went into the gallery and Robert was in. I told him I saw some wildlife. He asked me if I saw a groundhog, and I said yes, but the weird thing is, a turtle came over to my feet. He didn’t seem surprised. He told me there’s so many turtles out there, he has to watch out for them when he mows, and stop to move them out of the way so he doesn’t run over them with the mower. And sometimes he feeds them bread. So that explains it.

Isn’t that funny?!