June 26, 2015

This morning I returned to Kelsey Creek Farm to continue the painting I started on Thursday. The first order of the business was to lay down some branches with the rigger brush and bits of Raw Umber, Prussian Blue, and Titanium White. The poplars in front have dark branches, while the birches in the middle distance have light branches. Next came the trees on the horizon, made with a mixture of Cerulean Blue, Raw Umber, Yellow Ochre, Alizarin Crimson Hue and Titanium White.

Next I began adding the shaded interior leaf textures. The darkest values were a mixture of Raw Umber and Prussian Blue. Other values included Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Burnt Sienna, and mixtures left over from the trees in the background.

After the interior leaves, I felt it was important to add the large shadow shapes on the hillside and paint in the gravel path before modelling the sunlit sides of the trees.

In the end I decided it wouldn’t hurt to fix the color and value of the sunlit grasses as well. The next time I go out, my focus will be modelling the light on the trees, adding sky holes, and strengthening the shapes of the trunks and branches.

It feels like the composition would benefit from something more in the lower left. Either taller darker grasses, or perhaps a shadow form from a tree just outside the frame. I will probably add a splash of white flowers and a few dandelions as well.

Plein Air Kit

Many people have asked me what I carry with me into the field to paint, so I thought I’d do an inventory. Here’s the whole kit:

On the left is a knapsack with sun hat. It holds a garbage bag, a roll of blue shop towels, a box of nitrile gloves, and a bottle of water. Not shown are my lunch and sunscreen. In the middle is a tackle box with paints, palette knives, brushes, a brush washing tank, and a ViewCatcher. On the right is a pochade box. It sits on the tripod in the foreground.

Usually, I wear the backpack and sling the pochade box over my shoulder, leaving my hands free for the tripod and tackle box. Sometimes I will put the pochade in the knapsack, but this can be problematic when I get paint on the outside of the pochade. If the painting site is more than a few minutes walk, I put everything into a large frame pack, or I use a hand cart.

The tackle box cost about $15 in the fishing department at Target . Recently I have been using water miscible oils – Holbein Duo and Royal Talens Cobra. I typically use a very limited palette, so I could save myself some hassle by leaving three quarters of the paint tubes at home.

I store my brushes in a bamboo roll which fits perfectly in the bottom of the tackle box. I bring a variety of sizes, mostly bristle, lots of filberts, some flats, one or two rounds, and a liner.

The brush washing tank has a leak proof lid, so I fill it with clean water before I head out.

The ViewCatcher is an invaluable composition tool. I try to bring it with me everywhere.

Here’s the pochade box on its tripod. It’s an EASyl Lite from Artwork Essentials. It has a 10″ x 12″ mixing area which I’ve covered with glass. This pochade has room to carry two wet panels up to 10″ x 12″. I usually use 9″ x 12″.

The tripod is a Manfrotto 055XPROB. My understanding is that this exact model has been replaced by the more affordable 055XPRO3. I chose this tripod because it is light, sturdy, tall, and easy to adjust. One thing I really like about it is that the legs can be spread really wide for extra stability.

The tripod is fitted with a Manfrotto 496RC2 Ball Head with quick release plate. I chose this head for ease in leveling and adjusting the pochade box. The quick release plate stays on the pochade box allowing me to snap the box on and off the tripod in seconds.

Some people bring an umbrella to block the sun. I don’t have one so I just try to set up in the shade if at all possible.

Kelsey Creek Plein Air

I got up at 5:30am this morning to paint at Kelsey Creek Farm before work. Now I know from experience why I prefer to paint at the end of the day. In the evening, it gets cooler as time wears on and if you want, you can keep working on some aspects of the painting as long as it is light enough to see. You can enjoy the evening breezes as you clean brushes and pack up at your leisure in the fading twilight. In the morning, especially during a Seattle heatwave, it just gets hotter and hotter as you paint, and at some point you need to apply sunscreen, and if you get on a roll and don’t mind that the shadows have all disappeared, you apply sunscreen again – and then you pack up and wash brushes under a withering sun.

Still, I had fun, and I had wanted to return to this location to do a 9″x12″ version after a 4″x6″ study I made a few years ago.

Old study on the left. New painting in progress on the right. I’m using water miscable oils – some Holbein Duo and some Royal Talens Cobra. I started the under painting in Burnt Sienna, and then strengthened the darks with Burnt Umber and then Raw Umber.

I stayed long enough to paint the sky, but I forgot to soften the edges between the sky and the distant trees. No problem – I’ll do that tomorrow morning if I don’t sleep in.

Summer Solstice Plein Air

It’s Father’s Day and the Summer Solstice and I am painting once again at Marymoor Park. No concert this evening – just the Washington Brewer’s Festival – and a couple of curious drones buzzing around overhead.

This time I had 90 minutes to paint. I started by reestablishing the cast shadows, then painted the remaining trees from back to front. After that, grass and then the road.

I could probably call it done at this point, but I will probably touch it up a bit in one final session. I want to add a few larger pieces of grass in the foreground with a rigger brush and work on the shadows along the edge of the road. Also add a few sky holes in the trees and a bit of sunlit tree trunk.

Here’s the sunset on the longest day of the year!

June 16, 2015

Spent about an hour this evening working “en plein air” at Marymoor Park. This time it was hazy and beginning to cloud up, so the colors weren’t as brilliant and the shadows less defined.

I began with the sky, using a mixture of Cerulean Blue and Titanium White. I really wanted to mix in a bit of yellow and red to replicate the warm, sunset air I had seen the night before, but this evening, the light was much cooler because of the clouds, making the visible patches of sky appear blue.

After painting the sky, I mixed in some Raw Umber and painted the distant treeline, taking care to soften the edges. Next up were the trees on the upper left, using a lighter, more saturated green made with Prussian Blue, Yellow Ochre, and Raw Umber. The highlights in the trees are Cadmium Yellow with a bit of Yellow Ochre. At some point I began losing the light and switched to darkening values across the painting with Raw Umber and the green I used for the trees. The plan is to cover some of these darks with lighter leaf and grass textures.

Plein Air Marymoor

Plein air painting this evening at Marymoor Park! Twas a beautiful afternoon, with nary a cloud in the sky as I made my way past a long line of cars queuing up for an A.R. Rahman concert in the park. Once past the concert traffic I made my way to the dog park and then onto the Audubon Bird Loop. I stopped at this lovely spot, which I had scouted the night before.

It was halfway through the golden hour so I rushed to set up my pochade and block in the painting. I spent 25 minutes in total on the setup and the block in. The plan is to return another day to start on the color.

What a wonderful evening! After packing up and saying “hi” to some dogs, it was beginning to get dark, but I could still make out the dying embers of the sunset as I made my way back to the truck.