I start the week all excited knowing that the weather forecast called for beautiful mild weather, and my calendar is empty – 2 rarities that even more rarely coincide. On Monday I had to take Andrew to the doctor and had other things to do, so on Tuesday I got all my painting supplies together, and marched over to the Missouri Botanical Garden to paint. I was feeling very tired that day because I had not slept well the night before. I decided to paint the mausoleum of Henry Shaw. The Victorian edifice was truly beautiful that day, with the sun glimmering through the windows and the stained glass, and the dappled sunlight creating a multitude of highlights and shadows on the building. I also loved the twisty tree to the left of the building.
It was a nice quiet day without wind, bugs, or people to interrupt me often. However, when I paint en plain air I usually do pastels. I’m not used to all the accessories I have to juggle when painting with wet media like acrylics or oils or watercolor. Not only that, but about 1.5 hours into the painting, it suddenly got cloudy, and my light completely changed. I was already quite tired, and having a hard time being able to focus and get in the flow. So I got quite frustrated and decided to pack up for the day.
I came home, and rested for a few hours. Fortunately, I had taken a picture, so then I used that to block in the trees and the sky. Two days after that, I decided to put away the photo, and just go with what I remembered, and used my sense of what would work artistically. I made a point to create a sense of space by making some of the trees a cooler and grayer green, with less details. I did this by mixing purple into the green. I also refined the building by putting in some details of the wrought iron work over the windows, and some flecks of color to suggest the stained glass. I like how you can see the green trees behind the structure through some of the windows.
Missouri has a very short spring, and it is mostly wet and rainy. I’ve heard many people here say we go right from winter to summer, and that’s mostly true. Yesterday was one of those idyllic spring days where it is sunny and 75 degrees, everything is colorful and luminous, and it just takes your breath away. I was very blessed (thank you Jesus) to be able to paint, even though my mother was in the hospital because she fell twice. (I went to see her last night).
Tower Grove Park is a Victorian era park that was built by Henry Shaw. It was originally planned to be a private estate. It has charming old bridges and pavilions in it. I couldn’t help but admire this little foot bridge with the beautiful pink and white dogwoods in bloom nearby.
I just LOVE spring! Woohoo!! I’m so excited that winter is over, and spring is here! I’ve recently been trying out acrylic paints. They feel a lot different that oils. I love the fact that they dry quickly, so I can put another layer on in just 5-10 minutes, instead of waiting a day or two, as with oils. I’m also reading a book about how to paint in acrylics. This new acrylic adventure is really inspiring me! This book has lots and lots of new ideas, techniques, and so on. I realize that I’ve been a very traditional painter up till now, relying only on the most basic of tools and techniques. That’s fine, because it forces me to learn to draw and paint really well. However, it was starting to get a tad boring, too.
Here is a painting I did of a crabapple tree in full bloom. This tree is just a block from my house. I took a photo of it close up. My palette is titanium white, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium orange, quinacridone red, quinacridone magenta, perylene violet,
ultramarine blue, and olive green deep. I started on a bright yellow toned canvas. This gives the painting a bright, warm feeling. I painted a bit looser than my general tendency. I made a point to allow the yellow underpainting to show through. I drew the shapes in detail on the dry underpainting, then painted it all in.
The two challenges of acrylics for me, is the fast drying time can make it hard to get a good even blend or gradation, and the color shift. I spent a lot of time researching how to deal with the color shift. They tend to dry darker than when you apply them. I bought some tubes of Winsor Newton the other day because they claim to have no color shift, but there is still a slight color shift. It’s not a big deal. I’m learning to make the paint a bit lighter than I want to be before I apply it, and to repaint areas that dry too dark.
I had a marvelous breakfast of quiche Lorraine at the Shaw Coffee Company yesterday with my husband and younger son. After I finished the quiche, I really liked the way the colorful fruit looked against the whites and grays of the plate, napkins, and table top. I took a picture of it. I painted it yesterday and today in acrylics. I’m very happy, because in the past, I had trouble getting the right values. Acrylics darken as they dry, so I compensated by adding a little more white to the paint mixtures.
The palette I used was titanium white, cadmium yellow dark, cadmium red medium, quinacridone magenta, dioxazine purple, prussian blue, burnt umber, and phthalo green. I used Golden acrylics. I mixed optical darks and grays with the blue and burnt umber. I got a nice cold bluish gray. I mixed a speck of yellow into the white to warm it up.
My goal in this painting is not to copy nature, or copy the photo. I am going into a semi abstract mode here. I like how the bright colors of the fruit contrast with the achromatic surroundings and background. The plate, napkins, and table make for a nice abstract pattern of whites, grays, and darknesses. I’m trying to simplify and eliminate detail.
By the way the fruit was exceptionally good. The cara cara orange slices have a touch of pink mixed into the orange color, and were so sweet.