“Garden Sentry” Pastel Painting

I can’t get enough of the Missouri Botanical Garden.  I wish they would allow artists to come in and paint after hours.  I would live here if I could, it is so pretty, and has so many luscious scenes to paint.

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Garden Sentry, pastel, 9″ x 12″

Last Wednesday, my husband and I sat at the edge of the lake in the Japanese Garden so I could paint either the bridge, or the boulders in the lake.  I decided on painting the boulders.  Instead of the traditional composition, I chose to put the rocks in the top 1/3 of my painting, and have the bottom 2/3 be the water and the reflections.  It made for an interesting effect.   Usually the background of the painting has the soft edges, but in this case it is the background that has the more distinct edges and brighter colors, due to the subject matter.

This egret landed on top of the taller rock, as if to say “Here I am, and I’m going to keep watch over this garden”.  It stayed there for at least an hour, preening it’s feathers and just relaxing.  I felt blessed and grateful to have this wonderful addition to my scene!  I like how the blue in the shadow side of the bird goes into pink at the bottom, from the reflection off the rock.  I also like the reflections of light on the edges of the bird and the top of the beak.

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Painting a Series in Tower Grove Park

Jane, my painting buddy, and I have decided to do a series of plein air paintings in Tower Grove Park.  So far, we have painted 2 of the pavilions together.  This one is the Humbolt South Pavilion.  Tower Grove Park is a historic park in south St. Louis built by Henry Shaw, the one who founded and build the Missouri Botanical Garden, which is one of the top botanical gardens in the world.

I have a small field sketch kit by Winsor Newton.  It consists of 12 half pans of watercolor paint in warm and cool versions of the primary colors (yellow, red, and blue), several neutrals, black, and white.  The quality of the paint is very good.  These paints are

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“Humboldt South Pavilion”, 9″ x 12″, watercolor

creamy, smooth, and rich in pigment.  They are easy and convenient to use.  I also had my palette that is part of my plein air Soltek easel to work on.  I used a Shade Buddy umbrella so the sun didn’t dapple on my palette and my paper.

I started, as always, by sketching in my subject.  I had some trouble with integrating the roof lines with the base of the pavilion properly.  Once I got that figured out, it got easier and more enjoyable.  I originally made the mistake of not making the roof bigger and wider than the base of the structure.  I then drew in the “sides” in perspective, which was rather challenging, since this building is an octagon.  I like the fact that all the components of this building are also octagonal – the cupola, the roof, the individual pillars, and even the bases of the pillars (which I omitted in the painting).  So much attention was given to details in the older buildings.  I also loved the various curlicues and gingerbread details on the building.  The main reason I chose this subject to paint is that I love the golden yellow color of the roof.  I like how that contrasts with the teal of the columns, and the reds of the trim.

After the sketch, I painted the sky, and then the trees above the pavilion.  Then, I painted the pavilion, and then the trees and grass behind the pavilion.  The next time I do this, I would change 2 things.  Number one, I would mask in the pavilion so I don’t have to paint around all the columns and fluff on the pavilion.  Second, I would do the background trees and sky wet on wet to make for a softer look, which would create a better sense of space.  I would also paint in the sky all at once, so there isn’t a line and difference in value in the sky on the upper right hand side.

Overall, this turned out all right, especially considering this is my first plein air watercolor painting.

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Coronado Glory Original Pastel Drawing

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I painted this en plain air with my husband Jon in fall of 2016 in Holly Hills.  Holly Hills is an especially beautiful and charming neighborhood in south St Louis City.  The sugar maples have an amazing color scheme.  They range from a deep golden orange, up through a beautiful magenta color, with darker oranges and reds in between.  These are one of my favorite trees in the fall, because I am a colorist.  When I first moved to St Louis at age 15, I was truly blown away by the colors of these, and would just stare at them in awe and amazement.  I even remember one Sunday, our family drove to a small country town for a sausage supper in October, and I saw so many of these trees on the way there.  I was transported in bliss!

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“Coronado Glory”, pastel on board, 15 1/4″ x 10 1/2″

Old St Marcus Crabapples

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.

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Old St Marcus Crabapples, oil on canvas panel, 20″ x 16″

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.

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Spring Epiphany

This is a small pastel I did en plain air, with a painter buddy who lives nearby.  I did this in the early spring.  This is an elegant stone church in south St Louis called Epiphany Lutheran Church.  It is at the intersection of Leona and Holly Hills.  It is across the street from Carondelet Park, which is where Jane and I painted this.  Both she and I love to paint architecture.  The color of the pastel board is gray, so it was easy to add my windows and shadows by just erasing away the pastel.

I enjoy the experience of having people come to talk to me during my outdoor painting sessions.  I got to meet a neighbor who lives on Holly Hills near this church.  She made a wonderful shawl for my painter friend Jane, and she told me all about the Shake festival in Forest Park, which features a free play every evening in June by Shakespeare.  This year is Romeo and Juliet.

The trees did not have leaves on them when we painted this.  However, my son Andrew suggested I add leaves to the trees.  I did that, and I’m glad I did.

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Spring Epiphany, pastel, 12″ by 9″

Muny Gazebo in Forest Park

I LOVE spring!  It is a wonderful time to paint outdoors.  Today was a sunny, warm, breezy day.  My husband doesn’t go to work until 3 PM, so he came with me, and we went to Forest Park in St. Louis to paint the gazebo in front of the Muny in Forest Park, which is an outdoor theatre.

I had already decided to do this one in 2 sessions, instead of just 1, because the subject matter is intricate and complex.  I love older architecture, and this one is Victorian, and has lots of very cool details.  I enjoy showing the details in older architecture.  St Louis has much older Victorian architecture.  My goal for today, which I achieved, was to get a good detailed drawing of my subject.

When I first got there, I chose a spot where there was sunlight on one side and shadow

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Muny Gazebo, pastel, 14″ x 18″

on the other.  This makes for a more interesting composition.  At first I was just going to have the gazebo fill in most of the space, but then I decided to put it further back and include the bridge to the right as well.  This way, I would have a wide expanse of water with the reflections, and sky, and this would make it nicer.  We were blessed in that there was a park bench under some shady trees, so we sat on that.

I used my iphone to take a shot of it, just to establish the first few lines.  I have a tendency otherwise to lose my composition and drift off the page.  Then I built everything else on those first lines.  The first thing I did was establish the horizon, which was 5/8 (golden ration) of the way down from the top.  Then, I got the lines of the shore, the island, the basic outline of the gazebo, and the bridge.  I put my phone away and did the rest just from sight.  I have a view finder, but I need a stand or tripod or something to hold it stationary.  It’s a pain to have to keep holding it up over and over, and finding the same view each time.

I plan to go back on Thursday, because tomorrow it’s supposed to rain. One thing about the midwest, is it’s a challenge to spend more than 1 day on a plein air painting, because the conditions are so different from day to day.  At least I’m not trying to paint something that will change very fast, like flowers, or blooming trees.  Stay tuned for my next session on this one!

Carondelet Pavilion

I did this painting with my painting buddy Jane.  It was fall, and again in Carondelet Park, which is just a few blocks from my home.  This is one of the old pavilions in the park.  This was a bit more challenging than just a regular quadrangle, since there is a semi-hexagonal section in the middle.  I love the older Victorian architecture in many of the city parks in St Louis.

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“Carondelet Pavilion”, pastel on pastel board