It was cool and sunny today with no big wind, so much nicer than yesterday for your plein air artist.
I tried to find a place in Portsmouth that was recommended to me but couldn’t find the right road so I came back to the beach and went on down to Stumpy. I walked off the path about 50 ft. towards the swamp and sat on a mossy root that was out of the muck a little and sketched. No one could see me. I wouldn’t go off the path except it’s been cold so I thought I’d be safer from things that bite.
The background trees were sunlit and the closer trees were mostly shaded. There was a little ice on the water. I stayed for over an hour to get this sketch. I might try to do a watercolor there some time while it’s still winter but I’d also like to go back to the bent tree and try again with pastels on a big paper.
I counted 4 great blue herons on my way out and an equal number of photographers. I bet Stumpy is popular with bird watchers.
They said this is the coldest day in 3 years with the temp right around freezing all day and a brisk Northerly wind. It doesn’t get very cold here. I bundled up and went out to sketch and shop a little, not because I’m so dedicated to art but because the sun’s out and I’m tired of hanging around at home.
You’ll never guess what I saw, a sexy soldier jogged past me wearing shorts and a T shirt. Yes, ladies, if you appreciate seeing a strong male bod all year long the beach is the place to be! hahah I love those guys!
I sketched quick and I’m not excited about the sketch but the first one of any subject is for me to decide if I like the location for drawing or painting. Is it safe, am I in anyone’s way, do I need a larger paper etc. I need to make a lot of decisions before I start on a project. These are a few of them. Yes, I do need a larger paper. The tree is more graceful than I drew it. I always seem to cramp my trees on a too small paper at first. I find it easier to draw larger.
The gloves on the bottom of the pic are my plein air gloves that I’ve been wearing for so many years I forget how old they are. I cut off the finger tips then the seams frayed so I sewed the loose ends together by hand. The paint is dry. I might have to buy some new ones but these are so nice!
My fingers got cold today, so I switched to the blue pair but then I kept smearing the charcoal so I gave up on neatness for this sketch. Another decision I have to make every time I start a new project is how much do I really care about it. Things like sketches or even mono prints, I don’t care about as much as I care if I decide to do a finished painting. Some artists worry too much about showing a sloppy sketch and you never see a bad one, and some artists don’t care at all and just sling some paint and see what they get. I find mental balance by caring sometimes and being apathetic other times. Either extreme, worrying too much what others will think or never even really trying to do the difficult thing, is not good. Striving for perfection even if it’s impossible, I say why not shoot for the ideal sometimes. It might improve my skill. Perfectionism has its time and so does the messiness of an art project.
It’s in Chesapeake. With a name like Paradise Creek I thought it needs a golf course. It backs up to the shipyard and the area doesn’t look very prosperous.
I think the pieces on the ground are strips of shiny metal but I didn’t go down there to get a closer look. The shiny metal cut outs of figures are to represent man in nature.
I walked on the path around the marsh. They have more paths but I didn’t try them all.
Some other people were walking but I’m not sure if it would be safe for me to hang around alone and paint.
At least I found my way over there on the first try without getting lost. I took the roads off the highway because the interstates are a little confusing and I don’t use the GPS. My car has it but you need to hook it up to a bluetooth and I don’t have that. When I want to scout a new place I Google it and try to remember the turns and roads, so I’m often lost. hahaha Well, if you’re an explorer you can’t let that scare you. Now, the interstates, yeah, scary. Why do they confuse me with 64E that doesn’t go East and then there’s 264, 464 and 664 to add to my confusion. Plus, I didn’t take my E-Z Pass and didn’t want to run into a toll.
This was good because since I’ve been at Virginia Beach for around 4 years now, I still have a lot of exploring to do and I need to find more escape routes in case of a flood or hurricane. They’re expanding the Hampton Roads tunnel which is my normal route to higher ground, but the traffic is bad. There’s a jam on that road every day, 64W.
It’s on the shipyard property, as far as I can tell. There’s a bunch of them. They’re surrounded with piles of sand or stones or maybe metal. It’s an industrial looking area all around with small houses too.
The first time I tried to find Stumpy Lake I was lost and gave up and went home. The second time I did find it in the late afternoon and it was real pretty and looks safe. Today it was cloudy and not too cold. When I was there before it was sunny and the trees were lit up kind of orange in the afternoon sun.
The other day Stumpy Lake had a ton of egrets in the trees. I counted at least 20. Today I only saw a few along the shore.
I saw a lot of ducks. I think they were cormorants, mallards and mergansers but I wouldn’t bet money those are the correct names.
Stumpy Lake backs up to a golf course so you can’t walk along the shore from the parking lot but they do have a trail through the woods that is very much covered by tree roots and runs next to a swamp.
I found a few places to sketch in my recent scouting expeditions. Normally I don’t take my camera when I go out driving around to do recon but today I did. I can’t use any of these photos for a drawing or painting. As you can see, they’re a little boring as far as photos go. I’m sure a pro photographer could show you the beauty much better but I’m planning on going back to Stumpy Lake to sketch this week. It’s going to get cold again. I’ll have it to myself.
It was sunny and cool with a crisp wind from the North. Felt great to be out there and I got used to the wind. I was on the leeward side of a dune.
I can’t decide what scene to paint next. I have a couple sketches of good possibilities. Now I like this one for a painting. It looks easy. There’s a white building back there across the road but I didn’t think the sketch needed the building.
This is the background and gold fish for my collage. I used acrylics and my palette knife to scrape shades of blue. The fish are my mono prints that I cut out. Some are on wax paper which I used as a printing plate, some are on watercolor paper tinted blue, some are on blue craft paper and some are on green glitter craft foam. They’re not glued down yet. I might have too many fish. They were fun to make. I could save them for another project if I have too many.
The next step is to do some mono prints of kelp and cut them out. Then the hard part which will be a mermaid and I still didn’t get her drawn but I will. Then I have to try to arrange the pieces. and glue them down.
I like the ones on the glitter foam which shows little bits of sparkles.
oops. This pic is sideways. Well, just pretend it’s abstract flowers or something. Yeah, it’s not sideways fish, it’s a design.
I like the smears of color on the fish from doing the mono prints. Every fish is different.
If I had a bigger paper I could have done more waves. Then I could draw them all the way up to the dry sand.
Some guys were on the pier fishing but all I could see of them from my spot sitting on the sand was the tops of their heads, so, no guys fishing will be in a painting of this unless they’re on the sand.
A few people were catching rays today. It was sunny and warm with a nice breeze from the South. Near perfect weather.
An old couple walked past me barefoot. They beat my record for late season barefoot. I’m not taking my shoes off between Nov. and March.
I saw some pelicans dive into the water and some surfers.
Weird thing happened on the pier. If you’re easily grossed out read no further.
It was cool and windy. Some people were walking on the beach so I zipped my windbreaker up to my chin and decided to try to sketch. The wind was coming from the North. I was doing ok with the sketch, resting my sketchbook on the railing, then suddenly a drop of water flew onto my paper and I wondered where did that come from. Then I realized the cold wind was making my nose run and snot actually flew out of my nose without me knowing! So I just left it there. hahaha. Did you think I was a high class dame? I don’t even care about the snot. It dried up on my way home.
This story is to let you know how gross plein air drawing and painting can be. All year long sand, leaves and dirt get in my paintings. In the summer bug spray and sweat get in my drawings. And there’s snot in the winter, evidently.
Painters and poets, we all reveal ourselves through our work. When I look at this I think oh no! If there’s an art savvy shrink in the room they’ll be able to peel the layers of my personality down all the way to my subconscious which is represented here by a few inches of stagnant swamp water. I would advise you that even if you’re wearing hip boots you could sink in and get stuck in the muck.
It’s almost like feeling undressed in public when you feel like your life is shown in a painting. People who I don’t know will get to know me well.
That’s why I don’t feel the need to express my emotions through my painting. Even if I’m only trying to represent nature as accurately as I can it’s still all me there. Get 100 plein air artists to paint this scene and none will look like my painting.
This close up shows some Spanish moss on the right which I blobbed in some lines of dark green and very light green then scribbled through it with my palette knife, and some orange cypress needles done with my modified fan brush, some bark done with the modified fan brush, and some background trees painted with regular brushes taped to yardsticks.
This close up shows some Spanish moss at the top of the painting. It reminds me of a valence because I worked at sewing for most of my life. I made a lot of curtains and slipcovers but never anything as beautiful as a Spanish moss valence, so delicate, airy, graceful, and yet scary and spooky. I’d take it home and glue it to a cornice for my apartment but it probably has tons of tiny microscopic bugs in it that would come out and bite me. I’m afraid to pick it up when it’s on the ground.
This close up shows a lot of layers of paint. So many I can’t even count. Some in the background, middle ground, foreground and some yellow leaves on black sticks on top of all the rest.
It might seem like I painted every detail but I actually skipped a lot of things that I decided the painting didn’t need, lichens on the branches, stick bushes in the water and dead branches on the ground, dead leaves on the water etc.
The painting fell down again and picked up cypress needle dirt but that will brush off when it dries.
This close up shows my attempt to make sunlight on top of reflections because I could see the reflections through the sunlight. This is a calm place in a busy painting so the art viewer’s eye will find a place to rest. The eye will also go to rest in the background. So, hopefully, the Spanish moss and the orange cypress needles will keep the viewer’s eye going from background to foreground, and around the canvas again.
The weather hasn’t been great for your plein air artist. I’d really like to go back to the swamp and finish my big painting. I only need about 2 more hours to do it but the sun hasn’t been out much this week. Sometimes I get up early and it’s sunny so I check the weather channel and it says it’ll be cloudy at 10. So, forget about it. I don’t want to lug my stuff out there and only have an hour of sun. I need the sun shining on the Spanish moss to get the right shades of gray mixed. Then sometimes it’s cloudy in the morning and clears up in the afternoon but that’s too late. Sometimes it’s cloudy and rainy all day. I guess the rain won’t hurt because it was getting too dry around here. Today is cloudy and cool but I wanted to get out and scout another view. This weekend it’s going to be cloudy and rainy. My next chance looks like Mon.
I was happy to see the parking meters wrapped up for the winter because I didn’t explore this little park before and was kind of worried about getting a parking ticket if I didn’t pay. Guess I can go back for free over the winter. I liked the view of the waves from up on the fishing pier. I want to go back and sketch looking North too. This is looking South. And the pier is a good thing to sketch from the beach. Every time I go out to sketch I find so many more subjects. No one was fishing today but if I can paint the pier from the beach then I can go back and add some little fishermen later if I want to. I could use the practice painting little figures in a scene. I have more inspiration than energy. And don’t forget the pretty white thorn bushes. Got to draw those things too!
There’s a slight glare on the painting because my Maroger medium makes it a little shiny. I tilted it forward and that helps but the glare is still showing on the left.
I’m excited about the progress I made in the past few days and it still needs a lot more work on the bottom of the canvas. There’s a bush on the left that I tried to sketch in a couple times already but then painted over because it wasn’t working. It has yellow leaves on thin black branches and some of the leaves cover the main cypress branch. I hope I can paint that in tomorrow. It could add some brightness to the left.
One thing about painting in plein air that most people don’t know is that you have to pick where you want your sunlight to show up and where you want shadows. So many artists think they have to paint fast so they can capture the changing light but it doesn’t have to be a rush rush thing. If I hang around there for 2 hours because that’s how long my concentration lasts, then it’s time for lunch or something, the light changes a lot over that time. Sometimes the light is perfect on the branch. Then it’s perfect on the Spanish moss or another part of the painting. When you keep going back to the same location day after day you get to know when the light is best for a certain part of the scene. Then you can plan how to use the light to create your focal points where you want them. The artist has to decide. If you’re copying a photo you don’t get those choices. The art viewer will never know part of it was painted at 9 and part was painted at 11.
I tried twice to start painting the water with reflections at home and both times it was so not good. I just can’t mix the right colors if I’m not there. This close up shows my 3rd try from today and I think this will work because I did it from life not from memory.
I was very excited to get that shiny wet mud painted in. I did that mess with my palette knife, scrumbling off white and a couple shades and tints of burnt umber in with it.
I hope the sun comes out again tomorrow so I can continue the beams of light over the water. My water should be dry enough tomorrow that I can put a layer of Maroger medium on top of it without smearing the reflections I painted today. The plan is to do a real thin glaze of white on top of the water going out on the same angle as the shadows from the trees. If I can make the glaze thin enough so that some of the reflections show through maybe I can make the effect of sunlight on water. If it works it will be an accomplishment for me.
After I’m all finished with the water I’ll have to continue the cypress branch sticks all the way down to the bottom of the canvas with bright orange foliage over the water. Then I have to do the Spanish moss last. So, maybe next week I can finish this. It depends on the weather. They’re calling for rain on Mon.
I started painting the swamp water at home but I’ll need to do more work on it before I can finish the branches that cross the water. Those thin branches will need another coat of paint and some orange cypress needles. (not sure if you call them needles but they don’t look like leaves either.)
Tomorrow I’ll work on the mud. I’m looking forward to that. It has bright sunlight going across it on an angle with shadows from the trees. Then the sunlight continues across the water with tree shadows continued. That’s still a lot of work before I put the orange in the fore ground over top of the water. So that’s still a lot more layers of paint.
When I got there today and compared what I had finished on the background last week to the colors of nature I wanted to warm up my background trees so I used my modified fan brush and lightly brushed in some new bark colors.
It was fun to do the highlights on the leaves also with my modified fan brush.
It was windy but the overlook is somewhat sheltered and my painting didn’t fall off the easel. I was standing way back from the painting with my brushes taped to yardsticks and didn’t have to worry because sometimes when it’s windy I have to keep a hand on the canvas. It was cold too.
Then when I was packing my things to go home I had the painting propped up on the deck and it fell down! It didn’t leave any paint on the deck but it did pick up some of the fallen cypress needles which stuck to the wet paint. You can see the dirt in the photo. when it dries the dirt will brush off.
This is my modified fan brush next to a blob of brown paint on my palette. I cut the bristles zig zag. It’s great for painting in 15 dots and a smear all at once, or rough lines. I use this brush all the time. It’s one of my favorites. You can get so many textures and they’re easy and fast to make.
That’s how soupy I like my paint for building up layers. I add a few drops of terpenoid and mix it in well with a palette knife.