Dreaming of Warmer Days

I was born and raised in the tropics (Venezuela).  Now, I’m in Missouri, USA.  I really miss the tropical weather in winter!  So, I decided to go to the Missouri Botanical Garden Temperate House, and paint this romantic little scene of vines trailing along a Mediterranean stucco wall.  This is done in soft pastels, en plein air.

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Dreaming of Warmer Days, soft pastel
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Tropical Reprieve

My sister and her family went to Thailand, and both of my nephews (her kids) have had jobs teaching English there.  They took many wonderful photographs of it.  I used one of IMG_0009the photos to do a painting.  I was very charmed by this colorful little house with the bougainvillea growing in front of the dirt path.  Notice there is a primary triad color scheme blue, yellow, red (pink).  This painting is done in acrylic.  I used a warm and cool of each of the primary colors yellow, red, and blue, titanium white, and burnt umber, to make an optical black.  The pigments I used were azo yellow, cadmium yellow medium, cadmium red medium, quinacridone red, ultramarine blue, and phthalocyanine blue.

It was hard to get the correct shade of blue on the roof.  I’m new to acrylics, and am still learning how to account for the color shift.  They turn darker as they dry.  I was happy with the way the sky, distant mountains, and banana tree all came out.  I think the bamboo structure for the bougainvillea is neat as well.

Closeup of Crabapple Tree

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,

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Crabapple in Full Bloom, acrylic on canvas panel, 16″ x 8″

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.

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Last Holdout

We had a nice prolonged autumn this year, due to mild temperatures.  I painted this en plein air at the very end of November here in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri.  This is in the Holly Hills area, which is a beautiful part of south St. Louis.  Fall is my favorite time of the year.  A week prior, I had run into a fellow artist Henryk Ptasiewicz painting this very scene in oils.  He inspired me so much, as did this beautiful maple tree, that I came back and painted it myself the following week.  He also got me connected to Jane Flanders, who is now my painting buddy.  I’m glad I painted while I had the chance, because now, it is 6 degrees F, and very much winter.

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Last Holdout, pastel on pastel board, 10.5″ x 15.5″

Autumn Mist

I just finished this painting a few minutes ago.  I used a photo as a reference for this.  My usual style is high key, colorful painting.  My goal in this particular piece was to loosen up a bit, and paint somewhat more softly.  I love how the violets and blues in the mists contrast with the golds, yellows, and reds in this.

My palette consisted of zinc/titanium white, cadmium lemon, cadmium yellow deep, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, purple lake, indigo, and terre verte, and burnt umber.  (I don’t care much for terre verte, but I wanted to use it up).  I mixed indigo with burnt umber to make my dark.

Fall is my favorite time of year.  We had an especially spectacular one this year here in Missouri.  It was extended due to warmer than usual weather.

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Autumn Mists, oil on canvas panel, 12″ x 16″

Getting Back Into Plein Air Painting

I just met a woman who is also a painter, and she lives only about a mile away.  We have gone painting a couple of times, and having a painting buddy is very motivating to get me painting more regularly.

For the past several years, I had gotten more in the habit of studio painting, and was doing little painting on location.  However,  I need the challenge of painting a scene on the spot, and knowing that I have to get it down quickly, because the light changes so fast.

Jane and I painted in south St Louis at the corner of Loughborough and Field.  There is a quaint old brick house at the corner, with some whimsical trees, and stepping stones laid around.  I think these types of properties are so much more pretty and interesting that a perfectly manicured new home with that sterile, plastic look to it.  I love the weathered, irregular look.  It tells a story, and I can feel the history that happened here.

So I was very drawn to the two trees with the colorful autumn leaves still clinging to them, even into December, since we’ve had such a mild autumn.  I love the contrast between the bright colors of the leaves with the bluish grayness of the neighbor’s house behind it.  I also like the contrast of the straight lines of the houses with the sinuous, twisting lines of the trees that almost seem to be dancing.

To be honest, I had a hard time with this painting.  My heavy, bulky coat managed to knock one of my pastel trays onto the ground, spilling them all over.  I also didn’t simplify the scene at first, and tried to include too many elements.  I messed up the sky, and had to remove it, and redo it.  I tried to soften the pastel marks of the left tree, and ended up with a muddy mess. At one point, I was so frustrated I considering giving up on it.  Thankfully, I calmed myself down, and just went on trying to rescue it.  It came out better than I anticipated.  Here is the listing in my online store.

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Last Holdouts, pastel, 15 1/2″ x 10 1/2″

“Basin at Seiwa En”

I love this peaceful, serene fountain at the entrance to the Seiwa En garden in the Missouri Botanical Garden here in St Louis.  In late summer, my husband and I spent a day here while I painted this in plein air in soft pastels.  It was a breezy, partly cloudy day.  That made it somewhat of a challenge to paint this, since I started out with a sunny day, but it was overcast at the end of my painting sessions.  I will never get tired of the beauty of this place.  This is a very quiet and subtle fountain, with a tiny stream of water that gently runs through the bamboo cane and drips into the basin.  Here is the listing in my store.

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Basic at Seiwa En, soft pastel