Category Archives: plein air

2nd try sketching at Great Sand Dunes National Park

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The weather is great. I was there all day working on this sketch but I took a long break and walked with the camera to take pix for my blogging friends.

Yesterday I wasn’t happy with my sketch because it didn’t show the panoramic view I hoped to get. I was sitting on a small dune to do the sketch. Today I sat on a bench behind the visitor center which is about 1/2 mile back from the dune and I think it came out better. I worked on my charcoal sketch for hours first. I find it difficult to do a panoramic sketch. The sketch keeps getting bigger and bigger as I’m going which means it’s out of control.

At least this is showing the scale of the dunes better because of the trees. The dunes are 750 feet tall, the largest sand dunes in North America.IMG_2335

Some wild flowers, asters, I guess. IMG_2334

Rabbit brush. The plaque says cows don’t like to eat it. Someone used the area to graze cattle and now there’s a lot of this because they ate all the tastier plants. That was long ago.IMG_2331

yucca. They’re small for a yucca. I think that’s what it is though. If not, please tell me.IMG_2330

horse brushIMG_2329

fringed sage. It’s a very delicate plant. This is a close up.IMG_2337

The two main grasses are blue grama grass and Indian rice grass. Aren’t they soft and delicate looking? I don’t know what the reddish brown plants are.

I learned so much today about this unusual ecosystem in the park. It has so many layers and they all depend on each other.

Elevation : 8170 feet. San Louis Valley with Sangre De Christo mountains.

Tomorrow I’m off to Taos New Mexico, which isn’t too far from here.

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sand dunes and mountain side

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I went out at the crack of dawn to Sand Dunes National Park and the dunes had great shadows. First I walked out to the grassy knoll to have a look at the view from there. It’s fantastic! I went back to the car and got my watercolor paper and color swatches because it’s too far to lug even watercolors over the sand. I got plenty of exercise at the high altitude walking on the sand today. People go the whole way to the top and walk on the ridge. They surf down on boards too.

I thought it would be less weight to carry if I picked a few colors of Inktense pencils. As I was working on my charcoal sketch the light changed and the shadows were gone. It was getting close to lunch time. I decided to go back this afternoon and see if the shadows looked better a few hours later.

I wish I could draw a more panoramic view. This doesn’t give you the perspective. If I drew people on the ridge they would be tiny. This isn’t as much of the mountain as I’d have liked in the sketch, but at least I got the tree line in so the altitude is showing a little.

When I left the dunes a little while ago the shadows looked dramatic again.  I have one more full day that I can spend up there, then I’ll have to move on again, so I hope I can get another sketch tomorrow.

a view from the Sky Line Rd. Canon City CO.

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This morning I was talking to a guy and when I told him I’m an artist he gave me some great info on the most beautiful places. Canon City is around 40 miles west of Pueblo on 50, my favorite road. I was looking at it on the map last night. I drove through it going east long ago but I didn’t know about the Sky Line Rd. I was glad the young dude told me to check it out.

Pueblo is at 4600 ft. and it seems fine to me. Canon city is at 5500 ft and the Sky Line Rd. runs on top of one of the ridges up higher. When I pulled off 50 to the Sky Line Rd. at first I thought I was driving on a paved foot path, it’s that narrow. The guy asked me if I was afraid of heights. I’m not. But screw up and you could go down like Grace Kelly.  The road is one lane, one way and when I got back down I was on the other side of the hill from where I started and I got kind of lost in Canon City. After a mile or so of driving next to the ridge in a residential neighborhood I saw some guys working and asked how to get back to 50. I was going the wrong way on the right road. After that I was confused which way was east for a few minutes.

Then I got a sandwich in Canon City and went back up to sketch. I got too much sun. Darn, I bet there’s not much shade at the Ghost Ranch either. Maybe I should get some sun tan lotion. I didn’t pack it.

I might go back tomorrow morning. I bet the light will be better. Then I’m thinking of leaving Pueblo and moving to the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Pretty sure I’ll be able to find a room.

When I’m traveling I think it’s good luck to give the spirits what they ask for. I’m not really superstitious, but if someone who looks like a bum asks me for money I give them a buck, if they ask for food or tobacco I give it to them. Tobacco especially, spirits love that stuff. Yesterday I a guy who was sitting outside my motel said excuse me ma’am, then started telling me his misfortunes. I gave him a couple bucks and a banana. Tonight a girl told me she’s homeless and hitchhiking with her boyfriend. She wanted a cigarette so I gave her one. She didn’t ask for money. Then she wanted food so I gave her a couple muffins and a yogurt. I hope this keeps me and my car safe.

a better plan for Pleasure House Point

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This is watercolor paper stapled and stretched. It’s 15 x 20, larger than the pastel sketchbook I used for the previous  marsh sketch. I did a more panoramic view this time, just outlining the shapes of the trees, sky, water and grass with charcoal. It’s a little easier to draw larger and on the second try. I didn’t start  painting today because it’s too hot and humid. I didn’t want to stay out long. It’s cloudy and not much breeze. We’re on the edge of the cone of doom for hurricane Dorian.  I didn’t hear any evacuation orders so I’m not leaving. We’ll have a couple days of nasty weather, maybe it won’t be too bad. Keep your fingers crossed for  VA Beach. I hope the lights stay on. Maybe I’ll be able to start painting this on Sat.

So, this is the first step. I think this is a better sketch than my first try. I don’t know if you can see it very well.

I almost forgot to tell you about the weird noises. I guess it’s birds in the sedge. Every once in a while a bunch of them start squawking oddly.  I don’t see them.

Marsh at Pleasure House Point / charcoal and chalk

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It was so nice to be over there. The weather is great! This is a big holiday weekend  so Pleasure House Point will have a lot of visitors. I’ll get back out next week with my watercolors and try to paint this. I’d like to use a bigger paper so I can show more sky and water. I think the biggest challenge will be the edges where the top of the sedge overlaps the water edge. I’ll probably do a couple practices on scrap paper.

A watercolor might be my last art project until I’m at art camp in New Mexico. I should start getting my things organized this week and pack art supplies. I’ll be off the grid and under the radar for a few weeks but when I get back I’ll tell you about my adventure. Driving across country alone is a zen thing. It’s a beauty and vast.

Spirit Horse Head in Clouds

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It’s a clouds experiment. I can’t tell if it looks like clouds to the viewer or not. If it looks like something else, that’s what it is. I painted it in Plein air from my balcony with watercolor and the clouds were moving. I used masking fluid on my fan brush and white oil paint stick first to block out some white and to see if I could make a soft and fluid cloud texture. When it was dry I rubbed off the masking fluid with an eraser.

The horse is another drawing with a black oil paint stick taped to a yardstick to make it fun.

I’m just goofing around at home with the horses for models and trying different things with watercolors but I’m going to get back out in plein air tomorrow and get back to the landscape next.

The weather is improving.  YEA!

Beach in charcoal and chalk

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It was hot but cloudy with wind, so that made it tolerable for sketching the view from the overlook on the boardwalk going over the sand dunes. The bench was too hot to sit on, though. That’s ok, I like to stand up to sketch. I didn’t stay long.

I’d like to try to paint this with watercolors at home. I took my color swatch charts and picked some colors to work with. It’s almost a monochromatic color scheme, especially since it got cloudy. I’ll keep it kind of monochromatic with some faint tints of color when I paint it and see if I can get the values close to reality. The horizon line was fuzzy from the distance and straight so I’m going to try on a scrap of paper first to get the look I remember. If I use gray in the sky, I should probably use gray in the water and avoid the bright blues which I’d rather use.

That’s the plan. Keep your fingers crossed.

Rose / Inktense pencils practice

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It was so nice out there today. The botanical garden had a lot of visitors when I went out to sketch this morning. I smelled the roses as I was walking in and remembered one I loved last year, the Crimson Bouquet. I wanted to find the brightest red because I’m from Lancaster Co. PA. the red rose town. York, on the other side of the Susquehanna is the white rose town.

I can’t tell if the background is working or not, but I wanted to do the minimum for it.

I’m looking forward to my art adventure in New Mexico in 2 months. I want to take all my art supplies with me on the trip but it’s not practical. I don’t know what kind of drawing or painting I’ll want to do when I see the Ghost Ranch. If I take a lot of art supplies I’ll have a bigger job unloading my trunk every night when I stop at a motel. I’m definitely  taking my oil paint supplies and I’ll have to prime a couple canvases in Aug, but I’d also like to take my Inktense pencils and a watercolor sketchbook. In the meantime, if I can sketch a few flowers while standing in the shade this summer, that’s good practice. I might have better luck when I try to do a landscape with the Inktense pencils out West.

 

funny plein air pix

Do you think this art has a meaning?  Sometimes I look for meaning in art and there is really no meaning. Could he be making fun of plein air artists that don’t “copy” nature?  Anyway, thanks for the laughs, Hank Schmidt in der Beek and Fabian Schubert.

 

See the entire post here.

 

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Artist Hank Schmidt in der Beek and photographer Fabian Schubert

Isn’t this guy genius?

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Artist Hank Schmidt in der Beek and photographer Fabian Schubert

Crepe Myrtles / pastel study

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It’s not finished. I have the leaves sketched in charcoal but I might not fill them in. The flower is the fun part.

This is close to life size on a 9 x 12 paper. The tree is next to my apartment and I stood on my balcony to draw it. The blossoms are starting to fall down on my car.

I’m glad I did this pastel today because I put it off while I watched Lucifer on Netflix. The devil is a good looking British chap. Did I feel guilty about abandoning my art for a week while I binge watched Lucifer? Not at all. And I learned that you don’t go to hell unless you feel guilty. So, that means I should be ok.

I think I’ll go to Back Bay next and try watercolor again.