I love both painting and being outside, so painting en plein air should be right up my alley, right? It’s actually a bit of a stretch. I tend to do an enormous amount of planning before beginning a watercolor. The spontaneity of plein air with oil paint is a refreshing change of pace.
Another liberating factor to this adventure is that I’ve decided results don’t matter. (Much like nature journaling: the process is more important than the final result.) My goal is to become reacquainted with oil painting and if a few successful paintings happen by accident, that’s okay, too. (I ended up being pretty happy with most!)
Today, I found myself with unscheduled hours to myself after dropping my daughter off in a beautiful mountainous area near the Virginia/West Virginia border. I had many astounding mountain views to choose from on the drive back, but this one won out due to the subject matter, a great parking spot and a safe location to put up my easel off of the road. Chimney Rock is a striking geological formation and was well lit in the autumn sun. (A man that stopped by to chat informed me that it is the most photographed location in Rockingham County.)
The two photos above show the beginning of the painting session and the end (about two hours later). Shifting values and shadows are part of the plein air challenge. I included just a portion of the VFW building to the right because it helps to show scale and locals know the VFW is there! It seemed a lie to leave it out, although I did omit several structures.
My plein air education so far has included workshops with Stephen Dougherty at Rockfish Gap Community Center and Kevin Adams at Shenandoah National Park. Here are a few other attempts:
Big thanks to my mom! She loaned to me the red easel that appears in all of these photos. She also gave me cartons of canvases, countless tubes of paint, brushes and mediums. And encouragement. Thanks, Mom!
I treated myself to the BIG set of Prismacolor colored pencils – 150 colors! And some toned paper. Here is the result:
This is graphite, colored pencil and white charcoal pencil on gray toned paper. I love working on a toned ground and pulling highlights out of it, pushing the shadows back. That’s something I can’t do with transparent watercolor. The brilliant color I was able to get with colored pencil was a happy surprise.
The subject is from a hike with my children the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Knowing that hunters were out and about on the public land we – without our blaze orange – explored the stream bed right along the road. These stately rocks were on the hill above.
With 100 yards of the scene just described, this little hemlock is tucked in snugly between an oak and limestone boulders.
It’s amazing how many colors can be seen within gray rocks.
Both pieces are 11″ x 14″ matted, and are in 16″ x 20″ oak frames.
My husband, an avid flyfisherman, recently introduced me to the art of Mike Savlen. Savlen paints gamefish in a dynamic and original way that is very exciting for both fisherman and art lovers. Searching for more abstract painters of trout, I found Becca Schlaff, whose work is also inspiring. I often give my husband original art for Christmas (usually featuring his chickens!), so this year I left my comfort zone to please his tastes.
I started with an outline of a brook trout on canvas, a vague idea of the composition and one rule: don’t mix the colors too much! I borrowed my daughter’s liquid acrylic paints and was determined to maintain the vibrancy. Here’s what he unwrapped Christmas morning:
This was definitely not my style, but I have to say it was FUN to paint. I’ll be stocking up on canvases for more fun!