One Friday in early spring, I went about 2 – 3 blocks from my home to Old St Marcus Park for a day of plein air painting. It was one of those idyllic spring days where the sun was shining, it was balmy, and nature was exploding with a rich, clear, blue sky, vibrant greens, and luscious pinks. I set up in the grass that was carpeted with violets.
I started by toning my panel with a brilliant cool lemon yellow, which to me is the color of early to mid spring on a sunny day.
After this, I painted the evergreen trees on the left. I did it quickly and somewhat loosely, because time is of the essence when it comes to painting outdoors. I then did the path and the grasses. Then I did the pink crabapple trees. I used cadmium red deep with lots of white. I also added some warm colors for the lighter sunlit parts. I think I mixed in some orange or scarlet. Lastly, I painted in the violets in the grass. I allowed parts of the bright yellow underpainting to show through, to connote warmth and light. This works really well with the parts of the grass that are in the sun. I deliberately simplified the background, which in actual fact had houses and cars, etc, because that wasn’t the point of the painting, and it would have been noise and distraction.
If you closely look at any tree in bloom or in leaf, there are lots of interior darks and grays that support the vivid colors of the outer sunlit leaves and flowers. I made this gray a greenish gray, in order to complement the pinks of the sunlit crabapple blooms. This was done in midday, due to the restrictions of my schedule that day.
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.
So I had been working at the kitchen of my son’s elementary school, but am doing so no longer. I’m back into full on art making mode! Woohoo!
A week ago, I made my first attempt at plein air painting for a VERY long time, at Francis Park in south St Louis. I was very drawn to an elderly crabapple tree, just starting to bloom. It was dark pink. It was a day with almost ridiculous wind (gusting up to 40 mph or more), so I needed to keep a low profile. Therefore I sat in a chair that was low to the ground, used no easel, and just painting a small piece. However, I was gobsmacked by all of the details, and quickly got overwhelmed and frustrated. After I brought the piece home, I knew it would need major work, but I had already filled in all the tooth in the paper. So I sprayed it heavily with workable fixative, and reworked it. As I already had a good structure in place, I had only to add some details. Here is what I ended up with. I love how pastel is so forgiving.