Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Spring Plein Air Landscapes

Postcard from the Easel: "Black Moshannon No. 44, Printemps" in progress. This is my most recent addition to a series of plein air landscapes based on this park over the past decade.

By and large, it's been a cool, rainy spring here in central Pennsylvania. But when the weather has cleared, it's been really beautiful. Whenever I can, I like to get out of my studio to one of our nearby state parks and spend a day in my "outdoor office." I learn so much more by working on location. I see the effects of light more clearly and the subtleties of color in features like the clouds are much more apparent. Plus, it's a great outing for my dog, Maple, who relishes the opportunity to do something different.

My trusty guard dog, Maple. Every good guard dog needs her own flannel blanket in the woods.


In this post, I'm sharing some photos from a couple of recent outings to Black Moshannon State Park and Reeds Gap State Park. These photos show a couple of oil landscapes in progress. I'm very comfortable working on location with pastel, but I still need more practice with oil painting. I find that mixing colors slows me down a bit relative to just grabbing a pastel stick, so it's a good challenge for me to really focus and maximize the time that I have with each outing.

Of course, I also had to toss in a snapshot of my trusty studio mascot and guard dog, Maple. She really is a vicious guard dog (part Doberman), so she's the perfect companion for me when I go to some remote locations where there's no cell phone service and just bears. It's easier to paint when you know someone's got your back.

The initial sketch, usually done in yellow ochre and maybe some raw umber.


Through these "Postcards from the Easel," you'll see a little of my process on location. I like to rough in an armature of the composition using an earth tone such as yellow ochre. Then I block in the major areas of light and dark before delving into the details.

The "block in," establishing areas of light and dark to eliminate the white of the canvas.


Reeds Gap is especially challenging because it's so-o-o green. But another fringe benefit of slipping out of my studio from time to time is that I gain a greater mastery of how to cope with so much foliage.


More refinements. I try to reserve the highlights of a composition as the final frosting on the cake, but in this instance I added some of the specular highlights on the water to establish them for reference relative to the rest of the subject.


Almost done! I wasn't quite able to finish this piece out in the field, so I'll make the final refinements in my studio and you'll see the finished piece on my web site soon.