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Tag Archives: plein air painting

This was a painting I did last Saturday during that spell of nice warm weather we have had.  These two cottonwoods stand on the southeast  shore of the pond. They stood out starkly against the backdrop of the woods.  They each had a few large yellow leaves clinging to the ends of their branches.  The leaves actually flickered as the breeze tossled them every once in awhile.  No hawk today. Caught a glimpse of him as I drove up. He flew from a tree into the woods. I soon found out why. The entire time I sat and painted I could hear gunshots going off from several types of guns. Must have been target practicing. I can’t imagine the amount of ammo they went through. Sounds like that are enough to quiet a woods.

This is a close up version of a scene I painted in July, here. This one was completed in one sitting while the other was one I started on site and finished at home.  The wind was whipping and the sun was shining brightly. Light flickered off one area of the pond that seemed to catch the wind. The foreground tree would change from silvery to light green everytime the wind chose to gust and toss the  branches.  Not only did the leaves flicker on the trees on the far shore but it filtered down through gaps and lit the trunks that were of a lighter color. All I could assume was the loss of leaves on some of the trees created larger gaps in the foliage and allowed for the light to filter through the canopy. The hawk was there once again. This time he circled and dipped very near me several times. No. It was not in a menacing way.  He came so close, twice, that I witnessed the slight change to tail feathers that helped him to maneuver and turn. I had never seen that before.

Finally!!!!  I painted this totally outdoors. It is a scene to the west of the property where I have been painting, outdoors. I have followed Stephen, Frank, Keith, and Chris (all who paint beautiful watercolors outdoors) for quite some time, now. They initially inspired me to keep trying this outdoor approach. I can honestly say I completed this outdoors. It took me two visits, however. I am so slow.

I have been watching this meadow change over the summer. I was immediately drawn to the wildness of it.  Six weeks ago it was covered in Queen Anne’s Lace and I wish, now, I had captured that. When I came out Labor Day, I had to try and paint the scene due to the fact that it dazzled with a pinkish-purple flower. I have since spent time on the internet and found that the flower is called Ironweed. Al would be so pleased. His postings have taught me to be more observant when I spend time outdoors. There were butterflies and hummingbirds feasting off these flowers and the whole field seemed to dazzle with light and activity. A deer even ran through while I was sitting there. Yes, my friend the hawk was circling once again. 🙂   The tree line was beginning to throw off warm casts of color and one large tree poked up all spindly having already dropped most of its topmost leaves.

I took time to snap pictures of the painting’s progress for you below:

The first step was to lightly pencil in the treeline and two buildings ( had to include the basketball backboard as it is VERY Indiana). I splattered some frisket  for texture as well as to include white dots for the few remaining Queen Anne’s Lace. I then applied light washes of color to the meadow area to define the shadowed area and the part that sat in bright sunlight. I defined the buildings wet-in wet and dotted in the golden rod I saw on the far northern edge leading out from the house.

Continued on to the left with the treeline attempting to get the shapes and color down. I also decided to define the Ironweed in the foreground in the hopes that it would assist with depth. This was what I had done on the first day I worked this painting.

When I returned, I knew I had to define the foreground meadow a little more so I tried to read the strips of yellow and green that I saw running through it. I splattered more of the purple-pink colors of the Ironweed and deepened the shadows. I completed the treeline.  At this point I sat and examined the painting at a distance.  I decided I was not satisfied with how it read.


I sat back down and stared at the treeline. The speckly white took away from the deep dark of the treeline that turned the meadow lights on so I scumbled water through the colors that were all ready there. This helped to deepen the shadows on them that I had observed.  The meadow had streaks of a pinkish cast throughout that followed the original patterns of the greens and yellows I had washed in earlier so I streaked those in very wet. I was careful to leave the bright light I saw leading from in front of the shed and partway down the back of the meadow. As a final touch, I added some of the butterflies I had seen while sitting there.



 finished painting

This is another plein air painting where I have been enjoying the out of doors while weather permits. I sat on the east side of the pond, “looking west”,  this day. There was a prediction of rain and the clouds were just beginning to move in giving this landscape a still and hugged feeling.  There was light and it played itself in and around the middle ground trees. Near where I was sitting on the east side of the pond, the frogs were talking and jumping around in the shallows. A deer ran through the upper left quadrant of this scene and hawks circled overhead for awhile. I hope the painting reflects a pleasant openess and the peacefulness of the afternoon.

 the start

Today I selected a spot right next to the shoreline of the pond and decided to try to render and paint the cat tails and aome interesting trees that looked like lime-green cotton candy.  I drew a simple line drawing and masked out the cat tails and the dead wood that I saw.  I next rendered the dainty trees I wanted to feature as well as the tufts of foreground trees to either side of these.

 2nd steps

I then ran a wash of the foreground pond reflections, painted the background trees wet-in-wet, dropping in salt as I went. Before I darkened the underside of the trees I masked some abstract marks in over the green washes where I painted in the deep darks. I painted in the light wash between the woods and foreground and placed the shadow I saw to the left. These were quick light washes.

 3rd steps

I then concentrated on the bank and defined the reflections in the water. I had to mask the foliage reflections in the water. I realised I had used analagous colors of yellow, blue and green, predominantly. I chose a red (burnt sienna) to help define the far bank and enhance the darks.  I chose this color because it went with what I was seeing on the bank and was a compliment to the greens. I then washed back over the reflections in the water. I then removed the masking and salt.  All of the above work was done plein air or on-site. This took me about four hours.

 final painting

To finish the painting, I handpainted, with a fine brush, the details of the cat tails, deadwood and tree trunks. I scratched out limbs on the dead wood with a pointed scratch tool. I darkened some of the trees in the background as well as fed some darks in and around the base of the cat tails and along the bank. I washed in some light washes of greens and burnt sienna and yellow over the foliage in the background darks.

To just add to the last post a little, about “Little Trees”?  The little tree on the far left has not made it thru the heat spell. I am so glad I took time to paint the scene before this happened.  It never ceases to amaze me how many things I have painted that are no longer in existence.  I drew an image of an old ramshackle house and barn one day, in the country.  The owner allowed my friend and I to sit on her driveway and we were thankful for the opportunity. It is no longer there.  I treasure some of these images and will always wonder if my desire to record those six little trees in a row, first, was a whim. I really don’t think so.

I revisited my friends’ property to attempt a plein air painting since we finally have a couple mid 80 degree days, here. I sat under some huge pines to view and paint this scene.  The painting, above, was what I ended up with in four hours of seeing and recording. I’m SLOW, Stephen, 🙂 .  The dark strip in the lower middle is their pond. I can see I’m going to have to come up with some kind of painter’s lie in rendering this pond. It is gorgeous, however, and I’d like to capture the essence of it eventually. It is dark and mysterious and reflects glints of things surrounding it. It looks like glass, most of the time, and like you could fall forever into it. There was a light breeze and I could hear a hawk and the whispers of the pines I was sitting under.

 final painting

I jotted down notes as to how I wanted to finish the painting . The light streak on the other side of the pond is a walkway around it. The owners took me for a ride in their golf cart around the pond so I could see from all sides of the property.  What a wonderful   view of Indiana. 

Oh. I have taken photographs. It never ceases to amaze me that what I see, while painting outdoors, is so DIFFERENT than what I see in the photograph. Those of you who paint plein air know this to be true. The curve of a shore line, the color of the trees, the shape of a reflection. I am not saying one is better than the other. In fact, I think it only strengthens the view that a photographer has to be a phenomenal artist, also.  I visit Kate, “Y” , Kirsty, and Laurie on a regular basis. I like to see what they see. Oh! …and Carol just introduced me to Jimmyboi2 whose recent trip up the east coast is full of photos of architecture.

I just ran across a beautiful poem about a pond at Adam’s poetry blog here.

There is always something special about painting outdoors.  A year and a half ago I participated in a wet painting silent auction. I painted two landscapes that day.The other is posted here. My paintings, done outdoors, always look different than the ones I paint from reference photos. I think we tend to pare down the non-essentials when we have a time limit. I  feel the brightness of the light or absence of it and the experience of the moment is found in plein air painting.  Many artists turn their backs on plein air work or work from life because they feel their work is less when they do so. Don’t do that to yourself, is my advice. There is something to be gained from both approaches. I have found that my work from reference photos helps my plein air work and vice versa. I strive to maintain a balance between the two. It is going to be getting warmer and I hope to take advantage of painting plein air again this summer.