Recent Plein Air- End of 2017


This is one of the first years that I've tried to get out and do plein air work in the Fall and Winter.  Summer has it's own problems (heat, paper drying too fast), but I've gotta admit- it's been cold and windy!  And that can dry out the paper just as much... 

Over the last two months, I've gone out on my own twice, and with friends a few others.  Of course, subjects that really matter to a person often take some forethought to find and map out.  As such, beyond the obvious pleasures of good company and being outdoors, I often find plein air work like a bit doing scales- it's really about challenging yourself to find a subject, build a composition, and really pay attention while painting (how do values really work?  how do color truly recede? etc etc).  This sort of learning process really pays off later, when you go to paint other work. 



Each location goes through a kind of visual alchemy, as you find the elements you want and assess where you want to lead the eye.  It's also always worth noting that many brightly lit locations don't photography well.  As such the colors in my painting are much closer to what the experience was really like.  Photos distort and record in their own way- they're definitely not more "truthful" to me.

All in all, I was happy with this one- particularly as my palette actually got picked up by the wind and thrown off my shelf, more than once!  My friend Sonia was a real trooper and painting along with me.  Brrrrr!



This is up in Calistoga.  As I noted recently, I've not been taping things down, but I wish I had for this one.  My paper kept blowing off!!! LOL  Eventually I had to pack it up.  It was just to hard, and damn cold.  I knocked in the lights and my shadows back at home. 



Again, we see here the issue with relying too much on photography.  Either my sky is correct, and I lose all color, or I shoot for color, but absolutely blow out all my highlights.   As usual, I'm hunting for a patch of white to build the painting around.  Including people, of course, always helps our minds generate a story. 

Have fun painting this coming year!  Plein air is challenging, and I wouldn't say it's the end all be all of all painting, but there's a lot to learn from it.  If your goal is to learn how to better choose and simplify your subjects, it can be a sometimes harsh, but useful, teacher!  :)