From Plein Air 2017

Jane’s Front Yard

Plein Air #28 / 9.20.17 / 10×8 acrylic
Porter Ranch, CA
“Jane’s Palisade”

We painted at Jane’s house today, and this is “something like” the view she has from her front yard… that is, after bringing it half a mile closer and stripping out the dozen-plus houses that travel up as far as those highest trees. I just didn’t feel like painting all the houses peeking out everywhere, but Carol was game–houses are truly Carol’s thing, and she was the one who suggested painting this view.

The light was playing hard to get. It was overcast, cloudy…the sun on the palisade would last for no more than 30 seconds at a time all morning. When I did my thumbnail, the hills in back were lighter and the palisade was very dark. It swapped around by the time I finished the block-in. And then back and forth! No sooner I thought I had a chance to lay in the lights, it was gone the next time I looked up.

I toyed with the shapes and only got work done about half way down from the top before we had to pack up. Forgot my camera, so no reference photo to work from later.

Took it home to reassess. Plenty of challenges were left, including finishing with a believable scene, laying on the paint in an attractive way, and going beyond local color. (Why are the last two in particular so hard for me?) It took a couple of days for me to notice I had painted all the greens with my usual high chroma, so those had to be addressed first.

This one caused me to again marvel at the fact that I was born and raised among rocks, hills, sandy washes, deserts, and mountains. The ocean is not far. (There are a few bodies of water nestled in rather arid settings in the relative vicinity, but I never get to them.)  If I don’t want mountains, I have all the flat I could want nearby. But I don’t have prairies, marshes, rusting broadleaf forests, green grass for more than two months, or snow in winter. There are plein air artists who never get to paint what I do and vice versa.

On Betsy’s Patio

Plein Air #27 / 9.13.17 / 12×11 watercolor
Porter Ranch, CA
“Crown of Thorns on Betsy’s Patio”

Oh, Watercolor…it’s been awhile. I took a refresher class 8 or 9 months ago in which we did a few exercises and copied a couple paintings. I’ve also bought a few books and a couple classes on Craftsy lately, all in hopes of working up my nerve to revive a triptych I did back in 2006 for my living room.

(Phyllis asked me why I didn’t just start over and repaint it.)

(…Because the idea is horrifying!)

Anyhoo, the refresher class taught me a few things I didn’t learn the first time around, eleven years ago: Layering, for one. Remembering to leave some white on the paper for another. The Craftsy class guy got me experimenting with ink one-line sketches (see last week). I’ve been watching some youtubes and making thumbnails, experimenting with laying down paint.

So, last Wednesday I sat down in Betsy’s backyard and it dawned on me that I had to sketch first. Pretty much forgot about that part! Then I stared at the subject wondering where the heck to start, seeing as I would have to paint around something somewhere, no matter what I started with. Betsy told me to just pick something and go with it. I managed to get it about 2/3 of the way done while there and finished it at home. 

So many faults! But I got a better start than I’d expected to get and learned a few things. (Ex: Scraping with a knife helped save the thorny stems. Easy to overpaint green.)  Just what I needed–a second medium to play with 🙂 .

A Little Ink

From Life / 8.30.17 / 5×7 ink “Side of Carol’s Garage”

On the last Wednesday in August, we met at Carol’s house. I couldn’t get my painting mojo together, so I took a sketchbook and some ink pens. Carol had these wonderful old green bottles with plants in them sitting on the table. I tried to sketch each one using just one line of ink. I think I’ve heard this called “wire” drawing, or the “single-line sketch.”

Then I sketched her art bag, and easel and palette. After that I did the side of her garage that I could see through her french doors. If I were brave, I’d tint these with watercolor.

From Life / 8.30.17 / 5×5 ink “Green Bottles”


Garden Still Life

From Life / 8/9,16,23/17 / 12×12 acrylic
Garden Still Life, Winnetka, CA
“Two Frogs”

For August, the plein air group thought we’d dodge some of the heat by meeting to paint on my patio. We set up and worked on a garden-themed still life over three weeks. Each person brought some garden items, making for maybe 18 objects on a table. I wish I could post everyone’s effort, because we all chose different things to include or leave out.

On the first day I started to do a horizontal 9×12 that had more objects in it, but by the end of Day 1 I thought it was way too literal and really pretty dull. I rethought it between week 1 and 2 and decided the story was about the frogs, so I started over and made a new block-in in a (12×12) square format. I edited out a bunch of stuff and changed the scale of some of the things a bit.

I like it a lot better, but still have qualms. The spacing doesn’t sit right with me, but that didn’t seem to bother Carol when I asked her. Carol brought the green wooden frog, and I contributed the orange ceramic one. It was my grandma’s, and she kept this one in a little garden wheelbarrow outside her bedroom window. I remember a lot of croaking at night in her little town, and seeing a lot of little flat frogs on the roads.

The pot in the back with the succulents was planted and given to me by my sister. In all I think I have about 7-8 hours in this, and that is a lot quicker than I might have done anything like it before.

Oceano Lagoon, CA

Plein Air #25 / 7.11.17 / 10×8 acrylic
Arroyo Grande, CA
“Duck Lake”

I don’t really know what the name of this little lake is, but it had lots of ducks.

Wait…hello, Google Maps. OK, I think this was the Oceano Lagoon at the Oceano Campground-Pismo State Beach. (“Duck Lake” would be easier.)

There were families and playing kids and people trying to catch fish. You’d never know it from this scene, though.

I had a heck of a time with all the reeds. Took it home, played with it a while, and then added the ducks :). Hubby wanted to know why I put in the penguin.

I like the tree line :).