This is what I’m planning for the background in my next painting. This background will be mostly dark with spots of light showing through the leaves and some light on the ground. It has big dark green leaves that are shiny in the sun. Most of the leaves are on the other side of the tree so I’ll paint those sketchy and then make the leaves on this side more defined and shaped with more leaves showing on this side than I sketched here.
Kids like to go under this tree because it could be a neat fort with more magnolias around it. They can hide in the shade and peek out.
This Southern Magnolia in today’s sketch won’t bloom till summer but the other variety of magnolia that I drew the branch of a few days ago will bloom soon. The buds are showing some red today.
I bought a 24 x 36 canvas for it. After I paint this for the background I’ll paint the early blooming magnolia branch and flowers right on top of it. I think the red and white flowers will look good on top of the darker tree.
The weather forecast is cloudy tomorrow then 3 days of rain. After I sand and gesso the canvas a couple times, I’ll tint it gray and that might dry enough for me to start on the painting at home if it rains.
One year I planned to do a painting of an early blooming Magnolia and cold weather killed the buds. The tree didn’t bloom at all. Last year in March I got a bunch of life size studies of the flowers. This year, if it works out, I’d like to either do a pastel or an oil painting. I’m not sure which. These flowers might not bloom for a few weeks but I don’t have a lot of time to make decisions.
First decision- pastel or paint
If I do a pastel I should have my flowers planned ahead of time so I can do the background separately. If I do an oil painting I can start by painting the background and paint the flowers on top in thicker paint and it will cover nicely. If I do a pastel I need to figure out exactly how big and where to put the flowers first because I won’t be able to cover or lift the background pastel colors out enough for the flowers to be bright if drawn on top of the background.
If I do a pastel I can use a big sheet of the sanded paper and take less art supplies out with me after I decide on a few pastels. If I paint it I need to prime a canvas.
How many flowers will fit on a big piece of pastel paper? Should I crop this sketch or enlarge it and do them life size? Will I be able to use the sketches I got last year?
So many problems for your Plein air artist to figure out! I’ll have to prop this up where I can see it and try to decide this weekend. The stronger the plan, the stronger the finished piece.
Keeping my fingers crossed for mild weather because this could still get postponed until 2021 if it gets real cold again.
This is my previous sketch of a cypress knee transferred onto an 18 x 24 piece of charcoal paper with more knees and trees sketched in around it. It’s rough. I’m not sure you can make it out. The darker vertical lines are trees. The faint sketchy vertical lines are Spanish moss and the squiggles and shaded areas closer to the top are different types of foliage. I want some sky in the painting but it will be patchy.
I bought a 30 x 30 canvas for it. It’s easier for me to draw larger than smaller. There is room on a 30 x 30 for me to show more swamp water on the bottom, which is dark. The water isn’t actually black. You can see through it and peat is forming on the bottom because the water doesn’t have much oxygen in it so the fallen leaves decay into peat. I’ll also have room on the canvas to extend the view on the sides showing more swamp.
The foliage was bright orange when I was there a couple days ago. I don’t know how long that color will hang in there. We’re getting some rain and wind this weekend, a nor’easter. The storm is coming from the south but the wind wrapping around it is the nor’easter. That’s ok. I need to sand and gesso my canvas a couple times before I tint it gray then wait a day or two for the tint to dry before I redraw this on it and finish drawing more trees on either side of what I have here. So I don’t mind hanging around at home if it rains.
This is one of those paintings that could take a long time to finish because of the weather. Like a month or more. After I redraw it on the tinted canvas I want to do a thin underpainting. Then the plan is to paint on top of my underpainting when it’s dry like Matisse did by taping my paintbrushes onto yard sticks so I can stand way back from the canvas to work on it. That’s a fun way to paint but the paint goes on thick so if I need to build up layers or make corrections I’ll have to wait longer for the paint to dry before I go over it again. When I paint thin glazes I only have to wait overnight for it to be dry enough for the next coat of paint.
If I paint the orange leaves then they fall down, it doesn’t matter. If they fall down before I get to paint them that doesn’t matter either. The swamp is most beautiful in the winter in my opinion.
The ocean, it ain’t easy to paint. If I try about 100 more times maybe I’ll get it. That’s ok. This could take years. I won’t give up until I do my masterpiece, hopefully before I die. Until then, you might have to look at some bad art. hahahahahah If you have any advice for me on technique that would be great.
It was nice out today. Not hot or cold, sunny with a nice breeze. Last time I went to First Landing State Park, by the time I left the parking lot was slam packed. I decided to try a watercolor sketch at Back Bay today because I thought it would be less crowded since it’s a holiday, and it was. I enjoyed sitting on a sand dune to paint this.
We might get some rain tomorrow and this week, so I wanted to get out today for a sketch.
I’ll keep all my bad attempts at painting waves. After I have a bunch of them I’ll take them all out with me and that will help me improve my technique if I can compare them to real live waves. It’s like figure drawing. I’ll keep at it but not constantly. I go back to figure drawing again and again over the years, and I’m getting better at that. I might not do a figure drawing for a long time. but when you put an art down then pick it up years later, you can pick up where you left off. You don’t forget what you learned before. The hands have a memory and it doesn’t take much time to get back in your previous groove. It will be the same for me painting waves.
I didn’t finish this sketch because it started to rain. That’s one of the problems of your plein air painter. There was a 10% chance of rain. I don’t know if you can make this out, but it’s a path through wildflowers with a few trees. All the little dots are bright yellow and orange flowers. There will be hundreds of them in the painting.
I need to do roughs like this before starting my painting so I can work out a good composition first. This helps me to decide things like, should I use a horizontal or vertical format for my painting. How many trees can I fit into the picture, how much of the sky and background trees will be seen, what part of the painting to start on first, if I need to eliminate trees, and so on.
If I want to get a finished looking painting I need to get a good plan for how to do the background, middle ground and foreground. When you don’t do a finished background it’s a less finished and more sketchy looking painting. If you figure out in advance things like where to make different textures or focal points there’s a better chance the painting will come out like you want it to. It’s a good idea to have less complicated areas in the painting too so the viewers eye has a place to rest, and to work on shadows so they’re interesting to the viewer.
This is the old school process that I learned long ago. Take the time, follow the steps and it will work out much better. It’s not a waste of time to figure out a good plan first.
Now I have to stretch a piece of watercolor paper and draw it again. Then I can start painting the bright flowers on the white paper and block them out with masking fluid so I can paint green foliage right over top of them and when I take the masking fluid off later the yellows and oranges will still be bright spots.
It’s warm here but it will cool down soon. We might not have any frost for a few more weeks though, so I have time to try another watercolor before I get into my big plan to paint the swamp this winter. I was happy to see the wildflowers in full bloom. I’ve wanted to do a painting of them for a couple years but missed the chance because I was into painting another scene at the time they were blooming.
Nature is so beautiful when it’s stark and bleak, even a little spooky. Two of the trees have sloppy nests, probably egrets because I saw a couple today standing out in the sedge.
I need a bigger piece of paper so I can fit the marsh grass on the picture, but I had to get a few of the dead trees sketched first.
What else is spooky at First Landing State Park? Spanish moss. ooOOooOO And the cypress swamp! oooOOOooo I definitely want to paint both of those too.
I walked a long way on the trail from two different entry places and decided to go off it a little and sit on sand to sketch. I thought no one could see me, then a little beagle came up to me and we said hello. Then he went back to the path, so I guess his human was up there.
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.
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.
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.
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.