Thursday, July 29, 2010

Plein Aire Followup: Matthew Winters

I spent a couple of hours in the studio cleaning up the first painting from our outing at Matthew Winters Park.  To recap, here is the photograph of the scene I painted:

and here is the completed painting:
"Dinosaur Ridge"
5" x 7"

This is a piece I will consider for a larger studio painting, to be worked on when the plein aire days are long gone!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Plein Aire Four: Kendrick Lake Park

Six of us arrived to paint:  Ginger (our leader/coordinator), Sharon, Shirley, Barney and Karen, and I.  We started early to try to get something done before it heated up too much.

My support was a 5x7 piece of hardboard panel that I didn't prime.  I did apply a layer of the fine pumice gel all over it for some "tooth" and allowed it to dry before painting in oils.  In retrospect, I should have primed it with something to ensure long term stability of the painting.  Since this is, more a less, a field sketch, it probably isn't that important for ONE painting, but I definitely will prime the support on future pieces!

Kendrick Lake is an urban park in the City of Lakewood, east of Kipling and north of Jewell.  The Bear Valley Church is situated along the west side of the lake, and we met in that general area.  A trail about a mile long encircles the entire lake, so we had a lot of walkers (and their dogs) passing us by and stopping to visit.  It was a really pleasant morning.

The scene I chose is shown below:

I did a thumbnail sketch for the major shapes.  I tried out some new brushes made of different materials that are bigger than my usual tiny Kolinsky flats.  In general, they were too soft for my taste, and I tried all of them in an attempt to get one that felt right.  Although the brushes were giving me a bit of a fight, they were quite a bit larger than usual, and the paint went on rapidly. 

After about 30 minutes, I switched to a No. 12 Escoda Kolinsky flat to add some detail and clean up some areas.  The Escoda Kolinsky flat is my preferred brush; it has a great spring, provides excellent control, and is well made. However, Escoda Kolinsky brushes are pretty expensive, so I purchase them from online retailers only when they are on sale and I have a discount coupon.

The result is below:

I'm satisfied with the result after about an hour of painting.  I'll let this dry, think about it, and eventually make some studio edits.

Shirley did a nice acrylic (sorry I didn't think to find out the size).

And Ginger completed one and was partway through her second when I left . . .

Ginger's Second Painting, blocked in
5x7 oil

Nice work, ladies!

I'm looking forward to our next paint out!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Recent Work: Carribean Paradise

This was the painting challenge for June on my Studio Atelier blog. I hope you like it.  The actual painting took about four hours to complete, but the picture sat there for a month while I walked by or worked on other pieces.  June is always very busy for us, so getting time to paint is a challenge in itself.

Carribean Paradise
5" x 7" oil on black gessoed Gatorbord

When I did finally sit down to work on it, I made a few thumbnail sketches before putting any paint on the support.  Thumbnails are something I have done occasionally, but now I am trying to do them for every painting I start.  My recent foray into plein aire with Ginger Lecher has shown me the value of doing thumbnails as it keeps me focused on the topic.  It's hard to concentrate on a small piece of nature when I am immersed in its beauty.

Plein Aire Three: Matthews Winter Park in Jefferson County

We started out pretty early in the morning; I had scoped out the area the previous week, as had Ginger.   It was just us two for painting.

Matthews Winter is an open space park traversed by many trails and with Mt. Vernon Creek running through it.  The trails are designated as hiker only or bicyclist only, with some being shared.  The park is immediately north of Red Rocks, tucked in the Mt. Vernon valley between the Dakota Hogback and the foothills north of Morrison, and south of I-70.  It's important to pay attention to where you walk and keep an eye out for rattlesnakes.  For our first setup, we stayed next to the parking lot.  It was a beautiful Colorado morning, and the parking lot was nearly full when we arrived.  Lots of folks were taking advantage of the gorgeous weather.

This area is very scenic; hence it is a challenge to focus on a small subject matter.  This is when the VIEWFINDER comes in handy.

The following photograph is the scene I first tackled.

I painted on a 5 x 7 gatorbord primed with black gesso that also had a layer of pumice gel applied for additional tooth. I did not do a thumbnail sketch on this since I could easily see the large shapes.  After an hour, this is what I had:

When I finished the session for this painting, this was how it looked:

Here is the completed painting of "Dinosaur Ridge" (finished in studio):
"Dinosaur Ridge"
5" x 7"

I put that painting away and started on a new board.  This is the scene I chose:

I did a couple of thumbnail sketches for this one as the large shapes were hard for me to visualize with the sun approaching 11 am MDT.

These may not look like much, but they were enough to keep me on track with the general composition and shape configuration for the painting.

I painted an hour on this, took a short break and studied the painting, and then I added some detail line work.  This is how it looked at that point:

Both of these paintings will go back to the studio for some editing, but I am generally happy with my morning of plein aire work.

Two paintings "finished" in a 4 hour time span.  That's a record for me.  I am by nature a very detail oriented person, so the plein aire sessions are helping me think about bigger shapes.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Plein Aire Two: Bear Creek Greenbelt

We had another great morning of painting, this time near the Old Stone House on the Bear Creek Greenbelt.  I met Ginger, Shirley, Sharon, and June for a fun time.  We were joined by June's friends Barney and Karen.

Once again, our leader Ginger gave great instruction and tips on improving our technique in the field.  She painted in oil on a toned canvas panel.  Shirley came with her acrylics and knocked out a couple of pretty fine pieces in the time we were there.  Sharon started with her watercolors and did a couple of paintings; she then moved on to acrylics and made good progress.  June completed a lovely landscape and said she would take it home and maybe do something else to it.  It looked great as it was!  We didn't get to see Barney and Karen's work as they left before we had a chance.  Maybe next time!

We had perfect weather.  We set up near a small lake with lots of neighboring cottonwoods, a gravel trail, a few clouds, and a gentle breeze.  Lots of people were out biking, jogging, and walking their dogs.  We were fortunate to find a picnic shelter that provided shade.  By the time we packed up and ended our painting session, temperatures were climbing to the high 80's.

The following photograph was my subject for my first painting:

I worked in oil on black gessoed, 5" x 7"  boards with pumice gel applied for some extra tooth.  My first painting, which took an inordinately long time, was a struggle for me.  It's probably part warming up and part not being focused enough on large shapes.  I will have to edit my first piece a lot in the studio.

My second painting was more successful.  There were a few large shapes that could be identified easily, so the paint was slapped on pretty quickly.  I am quite satisfied with that one, for the moment.  The following photograph is my subject:

Ginger has laid out a pretty efficient process for successful plein aire painting.  Aside from the necessary gear for your particular medium, the two greatest aids, I have found, are a SMALL VIEWFINDER and doing a THUMBNAIL SKETCH before starting any painting in the field.

Other things to take on a plein aire outing include:  sunscreen, bug repellent, hat, water, snack, and umbrella.  It's great if you find a shady spot to stand while painting, but that umbrella comes in really handy if you're not so fortunate.

This is a learning process: - even our generous instructor is on a painting journey.

Update:  Here is the completed painting after about an hour in the studio:

5" x 7"