Tag Archives: plein air

redbud / oils

The colors don’t show up in the photo exactly as they are but you get the idea.

The flowers are thick paint and I used my modified fan brush again to add texture. You can see the difference between my background glazes which are thin and the flowers which are thick. That’s the traditional way of painting. If you use both thin and thick paint it helps give the illusion of depth and the viewer’s eye has something to compare. The viewer might not realize it but the painting might keep their attention longer with that contrast of paint thickness and texture.

You can see the thick paint of the dead leaves on the ground, the thin paint of my background glazes and the thick paint of the flowers compared to the solid lines of the branches.

redbud underpainting

mmmm, no.

We had some not good for plein air weather and I wanted to start the background for my painting at home but was undecided how to start. Every day I made up a new plan. Then I changed my mind again before I started. I wanted to wing it on the background because the real life background for this tree is too complicated and not a good composition from this side of the tree.

In my case it’s better to put a painting on hold until I have some kind of plan. Some artists would slap in a solid background or something fast and easy because the painting is all about the redbud anyway. They don’t like to overthink a painting. What’s the alternative to overthinking? Mindlessness? It seems like overthinking might give my painting a better chance of success. My mind runs constantly. I can’t stop it so I’m not fighting it. If I wanted to stop overthinking I might need to take some drugs for that.

I don’t like what I have here but I think I can save it. I didn’t paint the tree yet. I painted the background colors up next to my charcoal lines on gray blue pastel paper.

It’s going to rain today but I went over to the botanical garden to have a look at the tree and didn’t take my art supplies. I know I need to lighten up the background bushes and I’m dying to kill that orange mulch color. I was glad to see I still have time before it’s in full bloom. A lot of pretty trees are blooming around here. I don’t like to rush a painting, overthinking and all, but nature waits for no one. I want to paint the background first. That will help the tree seem to come forward in the painting. Looks like tomorrow will be good to paint in plein air. I should be able to finish this when it blooms right on time.

trees about to bloom soon

not a redbud

I’m not sure but it might be a dogwood.

a redbud for sure

Both trees are showing signs of life with tiny buds except the buds aren’t the same on both trees.

I only sketched the main branches for these trees but there are a lot of tiny branches with buds. First I need to paint the background and I’m not crazy about the background that’s there in real life. It’s part of the children’s garden with more trees, a pond, paths, mulch, some grass and then some big magnolias which are green, and brown trees that have no leaves yet. That’s too complicated for this painting.

We have had some nice weather and it might not be bad tomorrow either but cooler. Then clouds and rain are coming in this week. I can get started on these two tree paintings at home. I don’t know if it will take 1 or 2 or 3 weeks for them to bloom. Things change fast at this time of year. I’ll have to keep checking up on them.

Sandy Path / oils

It doesn’t really look exactly like this. Even though I’m trying to paint nature as closely as I can, this is still my interpretation of the scene. If you got 100 artists who are called realists or naturalists or whatever to paint here, you would get 100 different versions. If I paint the same scene in a few years it won’t look the same.

The colors in this photo aren’t as warm as they are in real life.

If you saw the previous posts, did you notice there were no trunks on the trees across the creek? What if I wanted to simplify? Just make general shapes and not do detail? Those tree trunks wouldn’t be missed but I like them there because they are a design element of short gray vertical lines that remind me of a ladder on its side.

I don’t see nature as simple so I don’t like to leave it at the underpainting stage of general shapes.

The greenish yellow bush on the right is there to break up the line of the edge of the path. As I looked at my painting last night, I decided to kill that sharp edge a little.

This scribble is a stick bush. I did that with my palette knife. It’s another design element to make the viewer’s eye go to the path since the stick bushes follow the edge of the path.

First I used my modified fan brush to go over the whole sedge field again and unify it a little. The dark shadows were too dark. The field is more even than I had originally painted it. Today’s glaze was a correction and now I think its better.

I used the edge of my palette knife to scrape in these stems for the sea oats. The vertical sharp lines here and the softer vertical lines of the tree trunks across the creek are similar design elements, one in the foreground and one in the background. It’s already there. I didn’t have to do any composition, which isn’t my strong suit, all I had to do was copy the beauty.

We have had some great weather for over a week and I hope it lasts. Today I needed suntan lotion. Soon I’ll have to bring the bug spray.

sneak peek of background trees / close up

I’m excited about my background trees!

At YAA they told us we have to do a finished background, middle ground and foreground in order to do a real finished painting. This is so the viewer’s eye can find a place of interest to rest by looking into the background.

YAA wasn’t a university but more like a trade school but very intense. They wanted us to learn the ways of the old masters. It’s good to give the illusion of depth in a landscape. That happens by using the tricks to create aerial perspective. You can use the same colors you have mixed for the foreground, just add some gray to make the background color.

I know some modern artists don’t like to use gray because they fear muddy colors. You can avoid muddy colors by mixing the colors on the palette with a palette knife instead of mixing the colors on the painting with a brush. Do I fear muddy colors? Hell no! Muddy colors aren’t bad if you use them right! That said, I often spend 45 minutes or so mixing my colors and adding a few drops of terpenoid in and mixing that until it’s smooth and even. It’s a slower process than modern art where you squirt the color out of the tube and dive right in with a paintbrush.

Don’t use any gray in the foreground colors. That will help separate the background trees from the foreground trees.

I used my modified fan brushes to add the texture to the background trees and dry brushed some branches into the sky. It’s a different texture than the one I made yesterday in the sedge with my palette knife. The heavier palette knife texture is in the foreground and the lighter fan brush texture is in the background.

sand and sedge painting update

It was beautiful outside today! sunny, cool and a nice breeze! I worked on the sandy path and sedge for a couple hours. Maybe tomorrow I can go over the background trees again. That part of it is still in the underpainting stage. I want to paint some detail of tree branches back there.

The sedge is kind of brown, gray, ochre colored. I mixed up 4 colors that were close to what I saw in nature and blobbed them in to make general areas of light and dark then I scribbled through it with my palette knife. It scribbled nicely because first I put a coat of Maroger medium on the dry underpainting, which makes it slick and wet and oily. When you paint a layer of Maroger medium on your dry underpainting or glaze and then paint color on top of the medium, that’s called “painting in the couch”. The medium couches the paint. That part was fun. I have to let the sedge grass dry for a few days before I can paint on top of it to make some sea oats and other sticklike weeds growing out of the grass.

Here’s a close up of a spot where the short grass grows out into the sandy path. You can see my palette knife scribbles through the blobs of brown, gold and gray.

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.