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!

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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

A Winter Plein Air Scene

I’ve gone from spring, to autumn, to winter.  Here is a small oil painting I did of Carondelet Park in the winter.  I had just gotten a wonderful new plein air easel, and was very excited about that.  It is the Soltek easel.  I LOVE it!!!  Man, is it quick and easy to set up and take down.  This is horseshoe lake in the park, as seen from south.  The building is either a utility building, or restrooms.  I like how the red roof shows up in the muted colors of winter.

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“Horseshoe Lake in Winter”, oil on canvas panel

 

Autumn in St. Louis

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“Carondelet Maple”, pastel on pastel board

I’m a bit out of order here.  I had painted this en plein air last autumn with my painting buddy Jane Flanders.  This is in Carondelet Park, by the corner of Holly Hills and Leona.  The tree is a maple tree.  Carondelet Park has a lot of karst landscape.  St Louis has a lot of caverns underneath it, and when these collapse, it forms a basin, as you can see here.  I like the effect of the background even better than the orange and red tree.  This is done in pastel.

Tower Grove Park En Plein Air

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.

 

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″

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″