Category Archives: plein air

pastel studies of butterfly ginger

I changed my mind.

Doesn’t palette knife painting look like a lot of fun? Instead of watercolor, I think I’ll paint these flowers with my palette knife and not use a brush at all. I need to buy a palette knife set so I have a variety of shapes to work with.

I have 5 studies of these flowers now. That should be enough.

I’m not sure if artists that use the palette knife to paint prime their canvases or not. It might make it a little easier to scrape the paint across the canvas if the canvas is sanded and gessoed and sanded again. That makes it smooth. Then the canvas needs a coat of background color.

I can glom the paint on real thick and try to get it to go where I want it to go without a paintbrush. It will be a challenge making shapes and lines and textures and still making a flower out of it.

I’ll go back to the garden to mix some green colors then I can paint at home.

Butterfly Ginger

I’m trying to get used to the new editor. This is my second try with this post.

Drawing flowers is fun and easy. I’d have done two except it was too hot. Maybe I can get out earlier tomorrow and do another sketch or try to do a watercolor study.

This is a tall bushy plant and the flowers don’t last long before they start to wilt. It has some unopened buds. I saw a butterfly go to this flower when I was drawing it but he moved on before I could sketch him. Maybe next time.

panoramic dune paintings with close ups

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left

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center

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right

Finally finished! time to celebrate!

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This is a close up of the small piece of ocean you can see from there. I always see a texture on the ocean. This could be white caps or sparkles. I’ll let the viewer decide if it looks like either one of those. Maybe from far away. Also, you can see the texture of the grass I made with the Inktense pencils.

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This is the leaf texture I made with masking fluid to save the lighter leaf colors and use a dark green to darken the shadows. The grass texture in the shade was made with my modified fan brush and masking fluid.

I enjoy making textures. Masking fluid is a great product for that.

Some things I can use from my old school training are how to make a feeling of light by working on my shadows. If you use the full range of values from black to white and put the darkest shadows in under some lighter contrasting shapes, leaves, the viewer gets the feeling of sunlight, and depth. Could you walk in there and get out of the sun? Maybe, but you’ll need bug spray.

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This shows a sand slide. The smoother sand is the part that slid down and the top inch or two of the rougher sand is the part of the dune where it broke. I hope you can see what I mean.

I like the way that the dunes mimic the ocean with their wavy shapes and their rising and falling with peaks and breakers, if you can imagine it.

dune painting and wildlife report from VA Beach

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When I was driving down the Sandbridge Rd. this morning a deer crossed the road in front of my car. I saw it from far away, a doe, as it walked across the ditch. It didn’t jump, just walked. Then as I was driving down the Back Bay rd. a big sand crab crossed the road.

A couple days ago I had to come to a stop on that road for a big turtle.

One day last week I was walking down the gravel road to my overlook and I saw something brown in the grass next to the road, not moving, and I wondered what it was. It was a big rabbit and not your ordinary wild rabbit but one with real pretty tortoise shell  colored  fur. As I got closer it didn’t move but kept on eating the grass. I walked by it only 3′ away and it didn’t run.

There is a bumper crop of dragon flies down there and one flew right into my neck! You can see hundreds of them buzzing all around this scene.

It was hot when I got there at 7:30 but there was a nice breeze which made it more tolerable. Now it’s hot as hell out there.

I’m almost finished with my dune painting triptych. This is the center section, finished.

dune paintings debriefing

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This morning I worked on the top part of the dunes adding some Inktense pencil to draw some grass. I also put a second glaze on the sand in the light areas and the shadows. The foliage on the bottom of the paper needs more work. The sky and sea are finished.

I can’t tell if I messed it up or not. I can’t fix it so I have to continue. An old dude (birdwatcher)  is watching my progress almost every day. He asked me if I sell my paintings and I said no. The first few times I saw him he didn’t talk much then once he talked a lot. If I don’t tell him I’m not sure if it’s working he’ll think it’s great. Anyway, I don’t really fear failure and if it is a failure let it be epic. That’s my attitude.

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This is the left panel of the triptych with one layer of glazes. To make my shady sand color I painted a thin glaze of gray with burnt umber. Then today I used a blue gray glaze  on top of the first layer. And I went over the light sandy color again today before scribbling in the dark green Inktense pencil lines. I think the two glazes in the shadows of the dune looks like a good gray now. The viewer’s  eye can see both  the blue and the brown glazes mixing together. The viewer might not actually notice the two glazes but it makes more interesting shadows.

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This is the center section of the triptych with one layer of glazes.

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This is the right section of my panorama with one layer of glazes.

The funny thing about painting a triptych is that even though I want the paintings to be hung in order and close together so it looks like a panorama, there’s no guarantee it will get hung that way, so just in case some idiot curator can’t hang it right, each piece should be strong enough on it’s own.

Now, you may say, “Chris, why are you so hard on curators?”

I’ll give you  a couple examples.

Years ago, I drew my skull of a bull with pastel, the skull facing left, center and right to be a triptych. The 3 pastels were strong, colorful, bold and kind of moody. I entered a national contest in Boulder CO. and all 3 were accepted! I was looking forward to it because I thought my pastels would dominate the show. I got plane tickets and made reservations for my Mom to go with me to Boulder for the opening. We got there a day early and I rented a car and wanted to find my way to the venue in the day so I wouldn’t get lost at night. I went in to get a sneak peek at the show and only one of my pastels was hanging. I might add that it was a big job packing all 3 in one big box and shipping them out there. I asked the person in charge of hanging the show where the other two of the triptych were since 3 pieces got accepted and were so large it would be hard to miss 2 of them all in the same box. The lady said they had migrant workers unpacking the boxes and they must have missed the other two. I had labeled it extra large, 3 pastels on the box. They had to send someone up to their storage unit in Fort Collins to bring my other two pastels down to Boulder and then they weren’t hung together as a triptych but spread around the show. I guessed they weren’t expecting me to show up from Virginia. This is why if you enter a show in another state you have to go, or your painting might not get hung at all.

 

One time in Richmond I entered a triptych in a show with a Richmond city theme. I did oils on smaller canvases of the skyline and the river. I guess they didn’t have enough entries for the show because they spread my 3 paintings out over a 12′ wall, so the effect of a panorama was lost. For a triptych the paintings should be hung with only a couple inches between them.

ok, enough of my complaining. This triptych might never get entered so, no more of that aggravation.

 

Dunes Sea and Sky / try try again

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Yesterday I slept too late for the best light. It was 9 when I got to the overlook. I decided not to take all my plein air supplies with me because I knew it would be crowded. I only took my color rough from the day before,  my color charts and a pencil to make notes.

When I compared my rough to nature the first thing I noticed is that there’s not enough greenery. Otherwise, not too bad, I thought. So I decided to do another  color sketch. Also, the ocean wasn’t sparkly at 9 like it is at 8 so that solves the problem of painting the sparkles. That wasn’t working out in my trials and I decided to forget about it until some time in the future. I might have to use oils to paint the sparkly water.

I came to another important decision. I decided to paint the panoramic scene at home. I might mess up the paper outside and can’t fix it with watercolors like I can fix a mistake  with oil paint.  There’s less chance of the paper picking up a smudge in the wrong place if I paint it at home as opposed to lugging all my stuff out there in my beach cart. After I get more experience with watercolors I’ll know exactly what I need to take along to paint in plein air and it will be a lighter load than taking oil paints.

If I do another rough sketch of a different area of the panorama and it looks ok compared to nature I’ll feel like I can paint it at home with more confidence. Just one more rough. I think I almost have it all worked out. I want to try to paint the thicker foliage first. This is a challenge and I want it to come out right. That’s why I’m doing so much preliminary work, the sketches, the color roughs, taking my time when making the decisions, etc.

It’s nice to have the luxury of taking my time when doing something difficult, and it’s nice to go there and walk even if I’m not working on an art project.

plan for dune paintings panorama

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I don’t know if you can see it well enough in this photo. As I was working on these separate pieces of sketch paper I was putting the others in my bag loosely and the charcoal and chalk was rubbing off inside the bag. No big deal, these are only sketches that I’ll never frame. They got messed up with sweaty fingerprints too. This is 4 pieces of sketch paper each 11″ x 14″ with a 4″ piece of a gray paper added to either side because I need 64″ across for my panorama but I ran out of the tan paper.

The watercolor papers are 15″ x 22.5″ so if I deduct a few inches from 3 x 22.5″ because I’ll staple them to boards, then when it’s all finished I’ll have to trim off the staple holes, I’m figuring roughly 64″. I’ll transfer this to the watercolor paper tomorrow and I might have to redraw at the beach a little before I start painting, but the hardest part of the planning stage is under control now.

I made some notes of colors I think I’ll need. And I want to do a couple practices for that little triangle of ocean showing between the dunes on the left.  The ocean looks gray and it has sparkles. It’s far away but still sparkly.

The chance of rain goes up over the next few days. I’m hoping for a blue sky with light clouds. That will be the first step in the painting. If the weather cooperates, it might not take long to paint my 3 pieces of the triptych, or it could take weeks.

the path to the beach

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That’s the ocean in the background.

I bought two big sheets of watercolor paper for my dunes now that I have a few sketches I can use. I’m planning a triptych. I want to show more sky in the watercolors than is showing in my sketches and it would be great if I could make the three paintings of the triptych  look connected. The watercolor paper is larger than my sketchbook so I’ll be able to extend my sketches on both sides a little.

I’ll have to haul my watercolors supplies down a path but not real far, I/4 mile or so, I guess. I can use my beach cart. I’m not sure if I can take all three pieces out with the paper stretched on boards, or if it would be better to work on one at the beach and the other two at home. The three watercolors will be a big job for me. I’m not sure how to paint that little bit of ocean and I’ll have to decide how to do the sky.

The bugs were after me this morning. Now I’ll have to start taking bug spray along too.

This plan seems like a lot of work but I think it will be worth it. Just hanging around there is worth the drive.

sketch of dunes / charcoal and chalk

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The earlier I can get to Back Bay the better when it’s hot. Today I got to my overlook around 8:30 and it was great! Not many people were there either.

I could get at least two more sketches from this one spot. It’s pretty 360* around and a place where I can see a little ocean between dunes. I could do a series of dune paintings in a row to give the panoramic feel of it.

Walking on the beach is nice exercise after sketching. The dunes get my heart rate up for a few minutes. The waves were small again this morning. In another week or so the tides will be all different from this week and I might be able to do some wave studies.