Posts Tagged ‘field painting’

Seeking Andrew Wyeth’s Help with the Pine Trees

June 24, 2011

Early Summer Morning at Stovall Park, Arlington, Texas

I rose at sunrise earlier this week, and tried my hand at plein air watercolor at Stovall Park in south Arlington, Texas, about 5 minutes from where I reside.  I found the warm sunlight alternating with cool shadows extremely delicious and wanted to try and capture some of that on paper.  I worked on it long enough to realize that I had no clue how to render the pine needles in the foreground tree.  So I finished blocking in the rest of the composition with wet-on-wet layers and called it quits for a few days.

Late this afternoon, I set up my easel in the garage, took another look at this sketch, and decided to consult Andrew Wyeth, my patron saint, my guiding force, my all-around heroic drybrush Meister.  Perusing a series of his drybrush sketches rendered en plein air at Kuerner’s farm led me to take another crack at this quick composition.  I pushed it about as far as I could go, then worked to get the background shadows much deeper, hoping to set off the pine needles more effectively.  I think I’m going to return to Stovall and try another of these.  Pine trees have intimidated me for too many years now.  It’s past time to do something about them.

Thanks for reading.  It’s been a delightful day painting.  Glad there is still plenty of summer left.

Tired of “Bluffing” the Eureka Springs Plein Air Attempt

June 24, 2011

Eureka Springs Bluff and Flower Garden

With the Texas temperatures more tolerable in the evenings, I returned to my garage studio to give plein air another whirl.  If you have been following my blog, you’ll recognize this one that I started a couple of weeks ago after a class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts.  The sun dropped and all the flowers fell into deep shadow so I stopped.  When I got home and searched for a reference photo, I was dismayed to find out that I did not take one from this angle.  I had a number of digital photos of this setting from an extreme side-angle.  So I had to “fake it” as I finished this one out.  I simply added more darks around the flowers and at the base of the bluff.  Then I added more background trees to the upper left hand corner of the composition.

Finishing this composition took me back to Eureka Springs, in pure Proustian fashion.  I enjoyed the mental re-visit and was somewhat sad when I stopped working on this.  Another chapter closed.

Thanks for reading.

Distilling the Essence of a Summer Tree en Plein Air

June 24, 2011

Summer Tree en Plein Air

It’s bloody hot in Texas already, registering daily triple-digits for about two weeks now.  I was spoiled in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas the past two weeks, waking to morning temperatures in the 70’s.   Today I decided to give plein air a try anyway, from the open door of my garage.  Standing in the shadow, I looked at my next-door-neighbor’s tree in the sun, taking in the warm sunlit leaf patterns, and peering into the cool, dark shadows where limbs and boughs were barely visible.  Quickly assembling my portable easel, I gave it a try.

I have always been dissatisfied with my watercolor handling of leafed-out trees (naked ones too–I just don’t like the way I “do” trees).  Nature’s green has frustrated me as a painter my entire life.  Therefore, I decided to wrestle only with the crown of this one tree, and do my best to match colors with its grandeur.  I spent the entire morning trying to sort out the reddish-tinted greens from the gold-tinted ones.  I also tried to find out what combinations of colors will “work” in the shadows.  I took my sweet time on this one, thoroughly enjoying the experience, though not certain of the painting’s outcome.

I spent some time during rest breaks (allowing the watercolor to dry) reading Xie He’s Six Canons of painting from the early 6th century.  I was trying my best to distill the essence of this particular tree crown that I was studying all morning.

Maybe I’ll decide by tomorrow what I think of this one.  I’m not satisfied, but am not sure just yet what is bothering me about this painting.  I believe it a worthy goal this summer while out of school to attempt to “solve” my tree-and-natural-green problem.

Thanks for reading.  It was an enjoyable morning for painting.

Calling my “Bluff” at Eureka Springs

June 15, 2011

Eureka Springs Bluff

A hot, humid, sticky day in Arkansas, thanks to midnight thunderstorms the night before.  Our plein air class from the Eureka Springs School of the Arts began the morning at the Turpentine Creek Cat Refuge south on Highway 23 out of Eureka Springs.  My students asked me to do a demonstration, painting a slumbering Bengal tiger in the shadows.  I tried.  She turned over about a dozen times in the first 10 minutes.  My attempt of course was a disaster.  The students paintings that ensued however showed much more promise.

Our afternoon session was spent on Spring Street near where I am residing this week.  The students gravitated toward this beautiful bluff and flower bed shimmering in the sun.  They called my bluff, asking me to do a painting demonstration of this scene, knowing I had never tried to paint a large natural rock surface.  I suppose I did O.K. on this (much better than on the tiger, which I won’t bother to post!).  After the students finished at 4:00, I noted that two students wished to remain for about another hour.  So I took this sketch back out, having only roughed out the bluff, and tried to knock out some flowerbeds (another first for me).  I lost the light as the evening shadows lengthened, so I will need to come back to this one.  The flowers and foliage are not quite finished.

An inspiring day for plein air painting, once again.

Thanks for reading.

Early Morning Light in Eureka Springs

June 14, 2011

Early Morning Light in Eureka Springs

Rising at 5:30 this morning, I emerged into the beautiful Eureka Springs morning light, and was surprised and gratified to find this spectacular vista from the rear porch of where I am residing.  Incidentally, the Twilight Terrace at Sweet Spring has to be one of the most beautiful facilities I have ever experienced (www.

I thought that the scene was perfect for a quick watercolor, and was happy to kick this one out in 52 minutes, start to finish.  Then it was time to run and meet my wonderful class–six enthusiastic plein air watercolor students who make me proud to be affiliated with them.

Thanks for reading.

Sun Slanting over Vespers at a Quiet Presbyterian Church

June 13, 2011

First Presbyterian Church Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The first day of class at the Eureka Springs School of the Arts is in the books.  I was so excited that I set my alarm for 5:30 and arrived at the school by 8:00.  Class began at 9:00.  Six students this year, same number as last year, and I love them all.  All of them talented, all of them enthusiastic, and all of them wanting to push their skills further by exploring plein air watercolor.  We worked our first day at the school.  Tomorrow we meet in the historic district of Eureka Springs, and will paint the town, literally.

Class went from 9 to 4.  I gave myself about an hour to decompress in this lovely living facility (Twilight Terrace at Sweet Spring), then returned to the site about 2 blocks from here where I began this plein air sketch yesterday at this same time.  I spent one more hour on it today and declared it finished.  After all, it’s just a plein air sketch, not a finished, polished studio piece.  Maybe I’ll do that some other day.

This is the First Presbyterian Church of Eureka Springs on Spring Street.  When I decided to work on it yesterday, I was fascinated with the rustication on the exterior of the structure, thought about how the ancient Romans introduced that to the Western world, and fancied this as a Roman Catholic Church.  Now today I read the sign and saw it was actually Presbyterian (sorry Jean!).  Nevertheless, it has that Roman look (to me).  And I am aware that Vespers came from the Roman Catholic tradition, drifted to the Greek Orthodox, and was later adopted by the Lutherans.  But I believe the word just means “evening” and I know that Presbyterians, Unitarians and other church bodies today use that word “vespers” to refer to some of their liturgical practices.

This was truly a “vespers” moment for me as I spent this evening’s hour finishing this piece.  The slanting rays of the sun continued to wash the environment, and chase lavender shadows across the recessed areas of this scene.  I really did not want to stop painting on it.  But alas, I have overworked far too many watercolors (and may have this one as well!).  So, I decided to let it go, and rest up this evening so I can teach another class tomorrow, and (hopefully) kick out another plein air watercolor at tomorrow’s vespers.

Thanks for reading.  Eureka Springs is a beautiful place to paint!









Evening Plein Air Watercolor Start on a Eureka Springs Church

June 12, 2011

Eureka Springs Church

This morning, my wife and I rose at 5:00 to make the four-hour drive to Little Rock so she could catch a flight back to Texas.  She begins teaching summer school in the morning, and I begin my one-week class here in the morning as well.  The return to Eureka Springs capped eight hours of driving, and I felt it.  However, the Eureka Springs School of the Arts has provided me with a place to stay this week, and when I moved in this evening, I could not believe my eyes!  I’m in a luxurious space, and feel so unworthy!  All I could hear were the dying words of Tom Hanks to Private Ryan: “Earn this.”  (Incidentally I did not care for the movie, but always remembered that “hook”).  And so, with “Earn this!” on my conscience, I hastily unpacked my gear in this beautiful dwelling, then headed out into the surrounding neighborhood at 6:00 p.m. to paint something, anything.  I just felt I needed to “earn this!”

The sun was setting on this beautiful church, about a block from where I will be residing.  I only had 45 minutes of light with which to work, so this is as far as I could go.  I believe I will set it out as a sample for my plein air students in the morning, showing them how I begin an on-site work.  Then, when 6:00 p.m. rolls back around, I’ll return to the site, and hopefully complete it.  I begin with four students tomorrow.  We’ll practice plein air watercolor for five days, 9:00-4:00.  I’ve waited a year for this, and can hardly believe that the inauguration of this experience is just hours away now.

About this start to the church painting–I was much more fascinated with the beautiful sunset colors filling the trees and foliage to the right of the church, than the actual church structure, although I look forward to (trying) to solve the problem of the rusticated exterior.  I love such cut-stone buildings and their Roman predecessors.  Finally I get to attempt a watercolor of one.  Hopefully I’ll render the stop sign and street signs with enough detail that they emerge from the overwhelming, colorful foliage.  I also love the slant of the street downward, much like what I saw with that Victorian cottage bathed in yellow that I attempted a few days ago (posted).

Thank you for reading.  Wish my class (and me) good luck tomorrow as we begin this week.

A Winsor Lemon Victorian Cottage in the Morning Sunlight at Eureka Springs

June 9, 2011

Second Morning in Eureka Springs

How could a life of plein air painting get any better?  I woke before my 7:00 alarm, found Eureka Springs bathed in yellow sunlight, and decided to give this perspective a shot.  I loved the Winsor Lemon color of this Victorian in the slanting yellow rays of the morning sun, and the longer I gazed at this setting, the more “taken” I was by the lemon yellow sunlight that washed the atmosphere, and the complementary lavender shadows that flowed out from the foreground pavement.  I did not want to stop painting on this composition!  I finally made myself stop, pencil in some refinements on the house, sign it and leave it alone!  This one was hard to release.

The Carnegie Public Library, as it turned out, is right around the corner from this lovely home on Spring Street.  How convenient to step into this air-conditioned ambiance, enjoy the aged, classic architecture of the interior, and post this blog!  How could it get any better?

Thanks for reading.  More tomorrow, as the plein air odyssey continues.

First Plein Air Watercolor Morning in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

June 8, 2011

First Morning in Eureka Springs

Greetings from Eureka Springs, Arkansas!   I’ve been sick with a sinus infection for four days now, but today am much better, a little stronger, and very interested in painting.  I finished out the Waxahachie Paint Out totally spent of energy, and that is probably why the illness set in.  The long drive to Eureka Springs was not without its wrong turns and missed signposts (my nickname is Magellan).  So we arrived yesterday evening and relaxed awhile, and retired to bed early.

I awoke without an alarm at 6:30 and decided to descend upon the sleepy historic district of Eureka Springs.  From my cabin, I shambled down “shin splint” mountain, finally getting to the bottom and finding my self surrounded by scenic structures bathed in the morning sunlight.  I didn’t know where to begin.  I walked about another half mile through the town and out the other side, along the lowest route, avoiding Spring Street (I’ve already done a number of paintings along that street, and no doubt will do more the next couple of weeks).  Finally I found this abandoned facade, with sign missing, and loved the light tumbling down the side-gable.  I surprised myself by completing the pencil sketch in 11 minutes, and the watercolor sketch in one hour and six minutes.  Finally my speed is returning.  I’ve always been happier with plein air works as quick sketches, with studio work coming at another (and slower) time.

I feel terrific now, and cannot wait for my next subject (probably tomorrow morning).  Thanks for reading.

Lazy Afternoon at Zula’s Coffee House. Last Day of Waxahachie Plein Air Competition

June 2, 2011

Lazy Afternoon at Zula's Coffee House, Waxahachie, Texas

Today marks the end of the plein air competition in Waxahachie (for me).  The deadline for entering work is tomorrow (Friday) at 2:00, and I will be stuck in school for the entire day.  The last week of public school is a total waste of time and resources, if I may offer my frank opinion.  Prime time every day this week has been spent in a high school where everyone–student and teacher alike–has already mailed it in.   I’m happy that I managed to crank out seven paintings since last Friday–six of them between Friday and Monday, and then the past three days on this one (again, prime time spent in school, and left-over, late-afternoon time, painting).

Zula’s Coffee House is my favorite place to land when I’m in Waxahachie, Texas.  Terra, the proprietor, has this way of making any patron comfortable and grateful for setting up in this coffee haven, any time day or night.  It has become a popular venue for folk singing, book discussions and various other small group activities.  Wi-Fi makes it a great place to work on the laptop when deadlines are pressing.  The coffee house is located on Business Highway 287, on the north side of downtown Waxahachie (Main Street).  It is far enough away from the town square to escape the traffic noises of midday, and has a life of its own (which the town square lacks after 5:00 p.m.).  The open meadow across the street provides plenty of space for anyone with an active eye and a dreamy imagination.  During the fall of last year, I painted the meadow in all the bright colors that the late afternoon sun yielded.  Again, this is a sweet spot to land for anyone who is a lover of art, books, music and of course, coffee!

Thanks Terra for a very rewarding three days.  I’m glad I finally got around to painting this splendid venue.

Thanks for reading.