Category Archives: plein air

sedge and path / underpainting

Finally! some nice weather! It’s sunny and cool and calm today and I made some progress on this. The painting is going pretty fast so I hope I can finish this in another week or so. I’m anxiously awaiting the red buds to bloom for my next painting. I’ve been walking at the botanical gardens lately and the red bud trees aren’t showing buds, but that could happen real soon. Daffodils are blooming and I saw some early blooming pink trees when I was driving around.

I’m enjoying painting on paper with oils. One time saver with paper is that I’m not sanding or putting gesso on a canvas. Priming and tinting a canvas takes a few hours. Paper is more practical than canvas when you start to accumulate a lot of canvases and have limited space to store them.

I’ll go over this whole thing again.

returning to my roots with this project

haha I don’t have any roots. I’m a tumbleweed.

Once I drove Rt. 66 from Springfield MO. to Santa Monica CA. I was in OK. and I saw these dead looking shrubberies by the side of the road, which had no traffic. I thought they fell off a truck and wondered why they didn’t pick them up since they were on the road. Then I saw so many of them I thought, these have to be tumbleweeds.

This is my plan for the next painting, the second time I sketched it, this time larger. The chalk is sand and the chalk dots are sea oats.

That’s how you start a painting in the traditional process, do a detailed drawing on the paper or canvas. When I was sketching a few people walked across the path at the top of the meadow to the right of center and I decided to try to paint a figure in to give it scale. I had already sketched in some sea oats that rise up over the path from this view. I decided to erase them when I paint and put my person walking in that spot on the path. This step is the time to plan and change plans. If I started in a rush to slap down some paint without doing the sketch then the painting wouldn’t work out as I hoped. Where would I put my person in?

That’s the only roots I have, the traditional ways of painting that I learned long ago. Some times I tumble along in the breeze trying to paint like a modern artist. This time I’m going to use paint brushes and take my time on it, not skipping any steps.

They’re trying to lure me to Texas

I don’t know if I’d get accepted. I’d be up against real plein air professionals. Their art pays the bills.

I had a great time at Fall Color Week at the Ghost Ranch in 2019. This Texas thing is a contest and I’m not real hot on competitions . The Ghost Ranch was like art camp for 1 week, not a contest. It was beautiful and they fed us well. Both events are from the Plein Air magazine.

When plein air contests got popular maybe 15 years ago or something like that, I entered when they came to Richmond but didn’t get in. I never heard why. And back in those days I entered the contests this magazine has but I never even heard from them if they received my entry which was a little discouraging to keep on entering. I got my daughter to help me with the entries to be sure it wouldn’t get hung up on some filing error. So, I don’t know why I never heard back.

I said I wasn’t going to enter anymore but this could be another great adventure like the Ghost Ranch. This Texas thing would be an expensive vacation but fun. I like the part about the artists can stay at the ranches before the event starts. At least I’d have time to decide where to paint.

I heard that they stamp the back of your blank canvases at the start so no-one can have more time to paint than the others. I’m kinda slow but might be able to finish something in a week if I work on it every day.

Should I enter? If I send them my swamp painting in the entry they might reject me because they’ll see it took me a long time to paint it and that’s against their preferred style, but the swamp painting is one of my favorites.

I might trade the Taurus for a Bronco if I take this trip. I need more clearance on dirt roads. I like my Fords. They have the most comfortable seats and they’re strong cars.

tidal pool with ship coming in / charcoal and chalk

The weather has been dismal here. We did get a little snow but mostly rain and it looks like more rain and cloudy weather for another week. I was glad to get another sketch of the tidal pool when the sun came out. It was cool with a little breeze.

It would be nice to see more snow than rain but the people around here don’t drive in snow very well.

I might try to paint this at home or I might do a sewing project but I needed another sketch first. This helped me visualize the bottom of the pool where the water runs back out to the bay and I made some mental notes of the colors I’ll need. It can be a limited palette. The vertical format isn’t going to work for a painting. I need larger paper. Some times I have to keep sketching before I can decide even simple things like horizontal or vertical. The pool looks too narrow here but I think I can use both of my sketches and fake it for the painting.

The ship had a lot of red on it. It was pretty on the gray blue water.

tidal pool / charcoal and chalk

This is what I decided on for my next plein air painting. I hope that pool doesn’t dry up. It looks like it will be easy to paint.

It’s going to rain again tomorrow, Mon. sunny and cold. I don’t mind cold but if it’s windy I can’t paint on the beach. Then more rain and maybe snow is coming for a few days.

The weather is keeping me at home too much. I started a flower painting and worked on it a few times at home when it was yucky out, maybe I can finish it tomorrow.

Today was beautiful outside for a change. Sunny and cool with a little breeze. A lot of people were enjoying the beach.

lichens / charcoal and chalk

slightly larger than life on my 11 x 14 sketchbook

They’re light green, and layered like tiny leaves or scales. I’m not sure but I think this is a live oak. I’ll ask later at the visitor’s center to be sure. The trees are sprawling with limbs going back down to the sand and all covered with lichens.

I was glad to get over there today after staying home for a couple days because of windy and rainy weather. Today it’s still a little cold and cloudy but not much wind. Tomorrow, winter weather is coming in.

I’d like to paint the whole tree. There’s a lot of them around the empty campsites, so, good time of year for that project.

It would be fun to paint lichens super close up too. I might be able to wing it at home since I have this sketch.

dunes, bay, ship heading out / charcoal and chalk

In defense of perfectionism:

I wonder why perfectionism is so unpopular these days.

Sometimes I see a piece of art, any type of art, and I think that is just sublime. I couldn’t do better. I can’t find any fault with that. That looks like perfection to me. It’s a treat for your eyes. That was no accident. If the artist didn’t work on that particular piece for a long time then they are showing you the end result of years of practice.

Art experts don’t like to see evidence of hard work. They call it “labored over” like labor isn’t part of life. It’s to be avoided. There is no such thing as a labor of love to those people.

If an artist is insecure maybe the person saying, ” don’t continue to work on this painting, stop now before you overwork it.” The expert is trying to make the artist feel better about themself. If the artist is saying, “I’m not good enough,” that isn’t relevant in the art world. You can be a real jerk, it doesn’t matter. You can still do art that is uplifting and people might love your art. I’m not good enough also doesn’t make sense to me because imperfection is accepted, even prized. The artists I’m talking about only need more practice till they feel good enough.

You don’t get there by giving up if you think you can fix a painting and make it better by continuing to work on it. If you don’t want to do that right now, it’s ok to put it off till next week, next year or any other time when you think you can do better.

I’ll agree no one is perfect. Perfection is an ideal. Why not shoot for the ideal? Even if you never get there trying is better than copping out. Art might be the only chance we have to get close to perfection.

If you want to keep going over it again and again don’t let anyone stop you. If you get on a good path and want to keep doing the same thing in different variations until you have had enough then you have to do that and don’t let anyone say, “you’re not done with that yet?”

Ignore anyone that tells you what not to do.

As always, feel free to opine.

the way to the bay / sketch

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel on the horizon

Oh man, there are so many places and things I want to draw and paint. I went over there thinking it would be fun to sketch lichens. I had lichens in the back of my mind since last winter. Then I saw some strange thorn trees. I continued walking a little further looking at lichens and trying to decide, lichens or thorns, and I walked out on this overlook and thought I’ll do this scene.

It was great weather, sunny, cool, light breeze. I only saw two people coming back from the beach.

The water was dark gray.

I need a bigger piece of paper. I could get into painting this freely if I tape my brushes onto yardsticks again and stand back. That might help my perspective a little too.

They’re calling for sunny but cold weather this weekend. I should go back. I’ll have it all to myself. It’s a real nice overlook with a bench.

sketch from Back Bay / charcoal and chalk

My sketchbook has assorted colors, blueish, greenish, tan, gray and white. The white is too bright to enjoy drawing on in plein air. Sometimes I tint white paper with pastel, blend it down and spray it with fixative. It’s easier to draw on. The white has so much glare in the sun. That’s what I did for this sketch, tinted it gray first.

Darn it, the waves look a little weak. I need more practice drawing and painting water. It’s always a challenge and it changes every day. I’d like to paint this scene. This is a good time of year to do it. The weather was sunny, cool and windy today. It felt refreshing and I had the overlook all to myself

Except for the water, which might be difficult to paint, this scene looks easy to do. I’m trying to decide, it might not be a good idea to take my easel because I can’t anchor it with the spikes on the wooden overlook. I might be able to paint on paper and lean my drawing board on the railing. I’d have to keep a hand on my easel all the time since it’s windy there.

egret in dead tree / charcoal and chalk

The thing I like about this tree is that a lot of the bark has fallen off and it makes an interesting change in texture between the bare places and the places with bark.

The egret wasn’t there. I looked at photos and tried to fake it.

I still need to sketch more before I can come up with a good plan for a painting. I’d like to use this tree and not have it in the center of the painting. I was glad it fit on the paper because it was windy and I took my 11 x 14 sketchbook instead of a larger paper on my drawing board and easel. I can hold that size sketchbook in one hand and it’s ok in wind. Anything larger and I need my easel. Then I have more to carry and wind makes it difficult.