The Joy of “Pushing Through”–Plein Air Painting in Eureka Springs

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch Attempt on Wednesday

Plein Air Watercolor Sketch Attempt on Wednesday

What we need is more sense of the wonder of life and less of this business of making a picture.  Your painting is the marking of your progression into nature, a sensation of something you see way beyond the two pretty colors over there.  Don’t stop to paint the material, but push on to give the spirit.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

We laughed together over lunch, saying this was “hump day” and therefore the hardest part of the five-day workshop.  Then we returned to the field to prove ourselves wrong.  The day reached 90 degrees, and was high in humidity, but we managed to stay in the shaded areas, for the most part, and doggedly pursued the compositions we had carved out of the neighborhood on Summit Street in the upper Eureka Springs historic district.  At the end of the day, we were tired, sweaty, thirsty, but satisfied that we managed to turn yet another corner in our watercolor pursuits, and learn a few more lessons in composition.

Pictured above is the sketch I picked over intermittently throughout the day, of a twin-gabled bed and breakfast I found very attractive.  I tried my best to stay attentive to what the workshop participants needed, and covered about a fifty-yard area to walk back-and-forth between them.  I never managed to get the yellows the way I wanted them on the gables of the house, but enjoyed working the green trim and the beautiful landscaping out front.

Completion of Barbara's Tuesday Watercolor

Completion of Barbara’s Tuesday Watercolor

Barbara spent a great deal of time Tuesday drawing out this composition, and had barely begun the painting of it when it was time to quit.  I photographed and posted last night what she had completed up to that point. Today she returned to enrich the tree, cast shadows on the house, re-work the wooden siding of the house, and add more texturing to the roof.  The lavender and rose hues she used to dapple the shadows on the siding have given the painting an exquisite look.

Beginning of Barbara's Wednesday painting

Beginning of Barbara’s Wednesday painting

With the time remaining, Barbara drew this composition in very carefully, then re-worked it in ink to keep from smearing the graphite all over the page.  There was little time remaining for the actual painting, but she knows there is still tomorrow and Friday to complete it.

Debbie's Wednesday Watercolor

Debbie’s Wednesday Watercolor

After putting some finishing details to the watercolor she created yesterday, Debbie went after this composition with a keen sense of purpose.  Already in her mind’s eye, she knew what she wanted from this composition–to place this sharply detailed house against a backdrop of out-of-focus, wet-on-wet foliage.  She also knew she wanted to masque the picket fence and drybrush vigorously about it, remove the masque, and then render in pencil the separation of the uprights from the horizontals.  Everything worked.  Dissatisfied with the foreground tree being too dense, she used an x-acto knife to scrape white reflective areas into the leaves to create a sense of liveliness.  That also worked.  Everything she set out to accomplish, she did, and managed to finish in one day.

Debbie's Tuesday painting, finished Wednesday

Debbie’s Tuesday painting, finished Wednesday

The only thing left for Debbie to complete on this composition was heightening the contrast between the flag, the pillars, and the intricate modeling near the roof.  She also warmed up the upper right-hand corner of the composition with Winsor & Newton Transparent Yellow.

Jean's Wednesday Watercolor

Jean’s Wednesday Watercolor

Jean was immediately attached to this stone wall and gravel lot fronting a rich backdrop of foliage.  Her interest focused on the blue planter and lantern perched on the pillar.  Most of her experimentation of the day was given to the texturing of the rock wall and pea gravel on the parking lot.  Her final touch was the darkening of the background foliage.  Everything worked for her today.

I cannot say with honesty that I was happy with my own work today, but then again, I didn’t really concentrate too much on it.  In between offering of guidance to the other participants’ works in progress, I took some stabs at my own plein air sketch.  But my dissatisfaction with my own piece doesn’t matter.  My heart overflows with joy, looking at what the class cranked out on this successful “hump day.”  I believe that all of them felt a sense of accomplishment, a sense of “pushing through” the appearance of what was in front of them, and creating a legitimate painting from their own unique vision.  And that makes my heart swell with joy this evening.

Thanks always for reading.  These are good times at Eureka Springs.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal because I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.


2 Responses to “The Joy of “Pushing Through”–Plein Air Painting in Eureka Springs”

  1. Deanna Tennent Masterson Says:

    The main thing is to be moved, to love, to hope, to tremble, to live.
    Thomas Merton.
    it’s a joy to see your paintings this evening!


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