These paintings were all done from the front seat of my van. Is it ‘plein air’ if the window is closed? (I think the window might have been open though! We have had weeks of gloriously clear, sunny, warm weather) It seems the important aspect is to be looking at the real object in its real life setting. The first one is on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington, IN. It took me about 30 minutes.
Acrylic on hardboard, 6 x 6 inches
The second painting is also on the IU campus, done on a different day. I loved the morning shadows on the building, but feel I didn’t paint them quite how I wanted.
Acrylic on hardboard, 6 x 6 inches
I tried again the next week, using watercolor in my art journal. I like this one better. I think it was helpful to include the big tree that is casting the shadows on the building. Perhaps I was better at drawing it the second time. Perhaps the vertical format is more suitable? Total absorption for one beautiful hour!
Watercolor on Arches 90lb paper, 3.5 x 4.5 inches
Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, 6 x 6 in
My second attempt! On this occasion our family went to a local park and the other members played disc golf while I painted, from a picnic table.
I was experimenting with using a palette or painting knife. It was fun and rather freeing! It brings different expectations. I also really enjoyed scraping out with the knife.
At first I tried to capture the sun setting behind the trees, casting lovely shadows and golden patterns on the grass. Then I tried to paint the sunset before it disappeared. It really seemed to be moving fast!
I like the sky painting better. It seems almost abstract and yet I know what it is.
(I should not have left the date setting on on my camera! I know now to remember to remove it for paintings.)
Acrylic, 6 x 6 in
This is my first attempt at real plein air painting, done in July 2017. We were on a 3 week family camping trip around the northeast and I brought my pochade box along for all 3400 miles! It was surprisingly difficult to find enough solitary, quiet time to concentrate on a painting. Plus maybe I was a little afraid of the process.
At a campground near Philadelphia I got up before everyone else one morning and painted this view from our picnic table. The early sun was lovely on the trees just beyond the pond. It’s pretty rough, but it reminds me of the peace of the moment.
I’ve had a lovely time painting summer flowers in watercolor. The lily is from a photo I took from my garden earlier in the summer. The dark background was actually the fence, but I love the flow of blues and purples. It seems so regal to me.
White Lily, watercolor, 7 x 7 in, on Arches 300 lb paper
The dogwood is from a photo I took in April when my mother visited. We were both enthralled by the delicate beauty of the dogwood trees in flower and went on a dogwood hunt. Suddenly we found them everywhere! I find it fascinating that what seems to be the flower petals are actually the protective bracts, and the very small central green bumps are the un-opened flowers.
Dogwood, watercolor, 7 x 7 ins, on Arches 300 lb paper
Over this winter my husband built me a new and improved pochade box! We just finished it last week. It is modeled on the shoebox pochade box that I made last summer. The sides are pine, with a plywood base and lid.
The lid has an overhang at the back, which was a happy accident. He made the lid too large on purpose, intending to trim it to the size of the box. While we were trying to decide on a mechanism to hold the lid open at the right angle for painting, I opened it one day and found that the remaining overhang rested on the back of the box and supported it at just the right angle! Like this…
Inside, he put a small ledge on 3 sides, to support a palette (actually I’m resting my Masterson Sta-Wet Handy Palette on it).
The water container is a baby food jar.
Under the palette support I can fit all my supplies!
I took it on a weekend trip last weekend. Here’s what it looks like in use:
It rests on my lap very securely (we experimented quite a bit with the size and weight to achieve this). Here’s the first painting I did using it, of the Mississippi River from my hotel room. (I felt too self-conscious just yet to venture out to paint in a busy city, although I did take my watercolor supplies and sit out by a nearby lake and paint).
I’m hoping for lots more outdoor adventures with the new box this summer!
I’m continuing to work through the 50 lessons in Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings by Mark Daniel Nelson. I’m working on #32, and sometimes itching to branch off and do ‘my own thing’, but also wanting to complete all the exercises and learn as much as I can. I’m really enjoying the immediacy of the paint, and the way it forces me to be bold and unfussy. Each painting takes me about 30-60 minutes.
I’ve been experimenting with different brands and types of paint, but think I’d better stick to one for now and learn its characteristics, so I’m using Winsor & Newton Artist Acrylics. The consistency is between soft and heavy body, the colors are bright, and they claim that there is no color shift on drying and that they stay wet just a little longer on the canvas. I cannot see a color shift, but I’m not sure about the drying time, as I re-use my paints from a Masterson Sta-Wet palette, so they may already be slightly changed by the time I use them.
I’m also keeping up with my daily Art Journal in watercolor. Maybe that’s why my progress in the 50 acrylic paintings seems slower than I’d like.
I have been having great fun painting these 5 x 5 inch panels in acrylic, using the excellent instruction in this book, Learn to Paint in Acrylics with 50 Small Paintings, by Mark Daniel Nelson. I found the book at a local library, but have now bought my own copy.
I started out using small squares of canvas paper, but wanted something more solid, so I bought a 2 x 4 ft sheet of hardboard and Jim cut it into 5 inch squares for me. Then I coated 8 at a time with 2 coats of white gesso. The colors are so much fun to work with. I’m experimenting with different types and brands of paint, and even trying out a few mediums.
I’ve done the first 22 small squares in the book, each of which has it’s own ‘lesson’ featured. I’m excited about the possibilities!