Analysis of my Most Recent Plein Air Demonstation

Today, I am attaching an email with pictures sent to me by one of our Plein Air students at Eureka Springs School of the Arts, Carl Petering.  Carl was a serious student of plein air throughout the week, with plenty of questions that kept me engaged.  He demanded a great deal from himself, seldom satisfied with his attempts, but committed to improving.  He made great gains throughout the week, and on the last day, took copious notes from my demonstration and then graciously sent it to me.  It is with his approval that I post this:

“A good painting begins with a good drawing. If the  drawing isn’t good, nothing else we do will improve the painting.” (In conversation later, I said that I’m learning strong value contrasts and complementary color juxtaposition are what makes a picture dramatic).

He uses a Windsor Newton Watercolor easel (Dick Blick) and a Plein Air Pro Palette (Dick Blick).

He was attracted to the subject’s values as created by the sun and shadows, the rustication, and the red sign.

He quickly put in a sky with light washes and a grayed blue color (Cerulean blue, Windsor Red, and Transparent Yellow). “Just get a little color and move on.”

Otherwise, he does not lay in washes, as they take too long to dry. He works on detail from the get-go.

He used the “ugly brush” to outline the “rustication,” and relied on it more than anything else.

He put in the darks on the tops of the building with brown blues, Transparent Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Windsor Green – a “smoky, nasty mess.”

He put in the darkest dark first to establish contrast.

He added Cad red since the mix was already dirty and used the “ugly brush” for rustic stone work. He used his finger to smudge the paint.

The window pane was put in with Cobalt blue using a flat brush with some smokey cast to the color. Victor Parkerson of Fayetteville is observing.

David used a chisel brush on the architectural features and the “ugly brush” on foliage. He puts hard shadows in last unless it is an angle he really likes, and then he puts it in and stays with it as the sun’s angle changes.

David uses water soluble graphite pencil for darks, then a wet brush over it to blend it and make shading. If he is in a hurry to finish he’ll use the graphite pencil also. He used Transparent Yellow and Windsor Violet for the sides of the stone walls and dark Sepia water color pencil to give detail in the stone work. He just put in a few blocks – the “essence of the picture” – as the Chinese would say.

He moves around in the various areas of the painting to avoid getting his hands in the paint, and he used the “ugly brush” and dark green to frame the lighted part of the building.

He did not paint the building all the way to the ground, as he kept in mind what would fit in a standard size mat.

Finally, he filled in the foliage behind the red sign with the “ugly brush.”

Thanks, Carl, for sending this.  And thanks to the rest of you for reading.

3 Responses to “Analysis of my Most Recent Plein Air Demonstation”

  1. Carl Petering Says:

    David, I’m honored you posted this piece. I’ll take to heart your evaluation of my demanding approach to my work and try to lighten up and enjoy the painting process more. From the heart, Carl


  2. davidtripp Says:

    Carl, thank you so much for sending me this analysis, and allowing me to publish it. Your demanding approach to your work has made you a great painter, and I thought you actually enjoyed the painting process–you certainly turned out a large body of work in five days. I was under the impression that you did not enjoy your results. Most of the time I don’t enjoy mine either, but I still enjoy the pursuit. I’m delighted that you are still hard at it.


  3. asmalltowndad Says:

    Excellent art, and it looks like a good time had by all!


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