Painting snow, en plein air

March 21, 2015

Plein air painting, is a term used to describe a painting done outside/on location rather than in a studio. The term comes from the French en plein air, meaning ‘in the open air’.

So, I’ve dabbled with plein air painting on and off for the past few years.  It wasn’t until recently, probably within the last two years, that I started painting en plein air on a regular basis and making more of a “serious” effort towards being a better plein air painter.

The benefits of painting en plein air, finally seeped through that hard head of mine.  I’m seeing how this is all intertwined and helping to make me a better painter in general.  The benefits of being there, feeling the elements, seeing the color, seeing the way light plays on everything, seeing the form and making quick decisions on drawing, studying value, color, and composition…..I get it….these are all necessities for a good painter.  Painting en plein air forces you to make decisions and go with them.  I feel like it makes you really study your subject…..really open your eyes and see.  Because of that, I notice that I pay a lot more attention to subtle color changes and how colors relate to each other.  I started paying more attention to colors in shadow and reflected color.  I have noticed that I have started finding myself looking at things during my daily wanderings and thinking to myself, “how I would mix that particular color?”.  Hmmm, wonder if other artists find themselves doing that?  I’m sure they do….yeah, that has to be a creative brain thing…….  ummm, right?

Oh, and hey, by the way, snow is really all white, right?  I finally had a chance to get outdoors and paint snow en plein air.  Unfortunately, every chance I got to get out and paint it, it was on an overcast day and while the fluffy stuff was still falling.  I tell you this because that day, snow definitely wasn’t just white.  I found grey and blue and in some cases purples in the snow (we won’t talk about the brown and yellow snow that I found in horse pen).  I also found that laying straight titanium white down just didn’t get that “snow” look that I was looking for.  I always mixed in one of the above colors or lemon yellow…..yes, a yellow.  I found by doing this, I was able to get more of the true look I was seeing in front of me.  I found that I was able to give more form to my snow.  After all, it did have shadow, mid-tones, and highlights (not much since it was overcast) but, it had “shape”.  This “shape” makes it more believable.  For example, I had to make it look like “a blanket” on top of the haybales and “pillows” on top of the old parts tractor.  I probably wouldn’t have noticed all of this had I not set up and painted with my subject in front of me.

So, getting out in the cold, braving the snow, wind, and sleet…..so worth the knowledge.  I will admit, I truly didn’t feel the cold while I was painting except when I started to notice certain colors “froze” quicker than others.  My white was a very, thick, gooey mess by the time I was done.  As I get out and paint in the elements, I’m also learning what types of clothing and supplies are a must and what I can leave at home (remind me to tell you about my alpaca socks….they rock!).  I’m also learning how to lighten my painting pack.  …..watch for future posts on that.

I have a long way to go with this “plein air thing” but I feel like if I learn one thing from each painting or each outing, I’m winning!  Some days I learn I should wipe off the painting and just pack it up for another day but hey, it’s all good.  No worries!

Here are three of the paintings that I did during our snow this year.  I think you can really see the gray and blue in the snow on the “Parts Tractor” painting.  The other two paintings look as though I used straight white but there is a subtle yellow and grey in them.  I think they just look true white because of the colors around them.  It’s all relative, right?  I feel like the form of the snow puffs is more believable in the tractor painting.

Bull elk–Day 28

March 4, 2015

 

Day 28

5″x7″ oil on canvas panel

Being creative is not a hobby, it’s a way of life”

Day 28–The final day of my painting a day challenge for the month of February!  Finished-whew!  In some ways, it’s been a long month, in others, the time has flown by.  I started this project with the intention of just doing small paintings each day (all are 5″x7″).  The first week, I started with doing value studies and had so much fun with that and finding out what a learning tool this was becoming, I decided to stick with that.  So, the full 28 days- I focused on drawing and values.  Something I can always use more practice with.  I also decided to keep with the western/wildlife themes–just because that’s what was inspiring to me at the moment and because I have a lot of reference material that I haven’t had a chance to use yet.

With the exception of just two paintings, all paintings were completed with either burnt sienna (sepia color) or burnt umber (deep brown) or a bit of both.  There were two paintings that I used a bit of “dirty white” on.  For the mono-colored value studies, to get the darks, I just laid in thicker paint, to get the extreme lights, I just used solvent and a bristle brush to wipe off some of the paint.  It was interesting to push paint around on the canvas and be able to form detail/line by moving the pigment itself into a line and then leaving the bare canvas to give form/shape.  I can’t express how much fun some of these little paintings became.  So much so, that I plan to do a few larger value studies….so, stay tuned on that.

With this project, I also decided to start a monthly membership with Daily Paintworks as a way to get these little value studies out to a bigger audience.  I was not focused on selling these studies but, hey, if I can sell a few to help pay for supplies it becomes even more of a win/win.  I am humbled to say, as of this post, I’ve shipped paintings to three different states.  I think I will continue with the DPW for another month and see how that goes.  By the way, if you’re interested, you can view my whole project on the DPW website at this link:  http://www.dailypaintworks.com/artists/veronica-brown-5531/artwork  I have to admit, I definitely feel a sense of accomplishment at viewing this gallery and seeing the 28 paintings in a row–some with red dots!  Woo hoo!  Looking back at the project, I think I definitely accomplished what I set out to do.  I gained brush mileage, I learned a lot about values and am improving my drawing skills, I learned the benefit of washing the canvas with a color and then carving out my subject, I’ve met some new fans of my work, I’ve added a few new states to my “collector locations list”, and I’ve fueled the fire for more creativity with ideas for larger paintings.

As for a bit about the final painting, well, it started out as three different paintings.  By this, I mean, I started three other paintings and wiped each one of them off.  When I stop and think about it, I guess I could say it was technically four paintings because I was re-using a canvas that I had done a quick little plein air study on over my lunch hour at the state park.  I wasn’t thrilled with the study, so, I didn’t think twice about wiping it off.  I did learn a bit about snow and color and describing snow as a form on top of a rock so, it was a beneficial exercise that had run it’s course–no need to keep the painting.  As I was working on the final painting, I was getting a bit frustrated so, I finally just put a little turp on a paper towel and started wiping out shapes…loose shapes with no real form in mind.  One of them reminded me of part of the body of an elk…so, after some more push/pull of paint and wiping out of paint, the final result is this guy…. Sometimes you just have to let the paint and canvas tell you what to paint!

Thanks for following along with my challenge.  I will try to continue to post new works and ramblings but it probably won’t be as frequent as the daily challenges. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to my blog so you’ll get updates as I post them–or, you can just check back whenever you feel so inclined, whatever suits your fancy!

 

No Scrub-Day 27

February 28, 2015
5"x7" oil on canvas panel

5″x7″ oil on canvas panel

Day 27 of my painting a day project–one more day to finalize the project and to end the month of February.  This guy was spotted on one of our hikes in the Rockies a few years ago.  He was walking among the scrub and sage brush….he was definitely no scrub!  He had a nice set of antlers and bulk to match.  He had recently finished shedding the velvet from his antlers because there were still a few bits hanging from them.  He was a beaut and even better, he didn’t seem to mind our presence so, I got some fantastic reference material for later paintings/drawings.

Here’s the link to this painting on the Daily Paintworks Gallery, thanks for looking:  http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/veronica-brown/no-scrub/336889

Antlered–Day 26

February 28, 2015

 

5"x7" oil on canvas panel

5″x7″ oil on canvas panel

Day 26 of the painting a day project.  I was fascinated by the patterns, highlights, and shadows of the antlers on this guy so, the crop is a bit different than I would normally do when painting this type of subject.  If I had set out with the intent of painting a mule deer value study, I definitely wouldn’t have cut off the nose/muzzle and would’ve probably shown more of the body.  I didn’t want to get too “fussy” with the antler detail but, I did want to get those contrasts that show the form and curve of the antlers.  This was a fun but challenging painting–subject I will definitely like to explore larger!

Here’s the link to this painting in the Daily Paintworks Gallery, thanks for looking! http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/veronica-brown/antlered/336887

Ram-Day 25

February 28, 2015
5"x7" oil on canvas panel

5″x7″ oil on canvas panel

Day 25 of my painting a day project. This is a painting of a bighorn my husband and I saw in Glacier a few years ago. He was a very curious fella. He ended up standing and staring at the reflection of himself on our rental vehicle for quite a while–my hub couldn’t get out of the vehicle.  We were both sweating it, thinking he was going to ram it.  He eventually moved around to the front of the vehicle and then over the side of the mountain to graze.  I definitely got some great reference material!  While this was all going down and I finished laughing about the situation, I handed the hub my camera to snap a few pics.  This guy almost seemed to know what the camera was for and started to “work it”, cocking his head, looking into the camera, etc.  It was pretty humerous watching the two of them….him, curious, and my hub both curious and concerned!

Here’s the link for this painting on the Daily Paintworks Gallery, thanks for looking.  http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/veronica-brown/ram/336888

Wisdom–Day 24

February 26, 2015
7"x5" oil on canvas panel

7″x5″ oil on canvas panel

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Day 24 of the painting a day challenge.  Four more days of the project–whew!  It has been a hectic month and especially a hectic week this week, between my “day job”, class, and keeping up with this project.  Sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day and I begin to feel like I’m treading water and slowly sinking!  That’s when I have to take a moment, take a deep breath and say the serenity prayer to myself.  It’s great meditation, even if it’s just for a moment.

This subject is a barred owl that I happened upon on my way to work one morning, on, of all days, April Fool’s day!  I happened to be doing the photography project at the site http://www.365project.org  so, I did have my DSLR with me.  I quickly turned around, pulled over and set my camera settings to what I “thought” they needed to be because I knew, when I stopped, the owl would fly.  I figured I would have one shot at it.  Turns out, I was basically right.  I was able to snap 3 shots!  One of him perched on the fence post and two of him flying away.  I ended up being late for work but so, worth it!

Here’s the link for this painting on the Daily Paintworks Gallery, thanks for looking!  http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/veronica-brown/wisdom/335995

Jake-Day 23

February 25, 2015
7"x5" oil on canvas panel

7″x5″ oil on canvas panel

I was having a bit of trouble deciding what to paint for day 23.  Sometimes the ideas are just there and then other times I have to have a “jumpstart”.  There are various ways I try to jumpstart the ideas; looking through reference material, flipping througha magazine or art book, taking a walk outside, etc.  This particular evening, I happened to be chatting back and forth with my daughter while I was sitting at my painting table, flipping through my reference photos.  I was telling her what I was doing and that I was having a bit of trouble deciding what to paint today….she came back with, “a horse!”….then almost immediately after, she came back with, “no, a turkey!”.  Um, OK…..a turkey seemed a bit random for her to come back with so, I questioned her about what made her think of a turkey.  She came back with, “I don’t know, I just always liked your small turkey paintings.”  So, there ya have it, today’s painting, a turkey value study.

I must say, it was fun painting feathers in this way and trying to get the value range right to give a feel of those dark feathers that really do have a lot of color depending on the light.  I already see some things I would do a bit differently but it was a great learning exercise, so, this subject may be worth exploring again in one of these little value studies.

Here’s the link for this painting on the Daily Paintworks Gallery, thanks for looking.  http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/veronica-brown/jake/335994

Long Ears–Day 22

February 22, 2015

 

Day 22

5″x7″ oil on canvas panel

I am finally caught up with my posts….for now.  The last week of my challenge started today….6 days to go.  I will say that there have been a couple of days that it was tough to get a painting done but I have thoroughly enjoyed the process.  Washing a canvas of a single color and then going back and “carving” out my subject, it’s almost magical–I know, sounds corny, but it was to me.  Sometimes I surprised myself as my subject just appeared with a couple of swipes of the brush.  Other times, I literally wiped the canvas off and started over more than once.  Being the stubborn mind that I am at times, I was determined to wipe the canvas off as many times as it took to get something I was sorta pleased with for the day.  I mean, if I have to paint and repaint multiple times, I am learning each time.  Whether it be drawing, getting values right, or just getting the composition right.  It’s all good!

Creativity itself doesn’t care at all about results – the only thing it craves is the process. Learn to love the process and let whatever happens next happen, without fussing too much about it. Work like a monk, or a mule, or some other representative metaphor for diligence. Love the work. Destiny will do what it wants with you, regardless. ~Elizabeth Gilbert, author “Eat, Pray, Love”  (one of my favorite books!)

Here’s the link to this painting in the Daily Paintworks Gallery.  Thanks for looking.  http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/veronica-brown/long-ears/335377

Bit of Bull–Day 21

February 22, 2015

 

7"x5" oil on canvas panel

7″x5″ oil on canvas panel

In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.  ~Muir

One of the bull elk that we encountered during a raining hike in the Rockies.  We couldn’t hear much besides the rain but then we started hearing branches break and something coming through the brush, then, there it was, the unmistakeable squeal of the first a cow coming through.  It wasn’t long before we heard the scream of an elk bugle.  This elk and his small harem along with a few calves came through the brush and aspens, moving on to cross the small river (at home we would’ve called it a creek but anyway….) and then into one of the meadows to graze for the day.  So mesmerising to watch the cows watch the calves, squealing and whinning to them, making sure no one is left behind as well as ensuring the wrong calf doesn’t get too close to the wrong cow.  Some of these cows get a bit grumpy….hormonal even….ha ha.  The only thing the bull seems worried with is keeping other bulls at bay and making sure he keeps his cows.  It gets pretty entertaining to watch some of the younger cows decide to make a break for it and him stress out and take off through the brush to retrieve them.

Here’s the link to this painting in the Daily Paintworks Gallery. Thanks for looking. http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/veronica-brown/bit-of-bull/335317

Saddle Up–Day 20

February 22, 2015
5"x7" oil on canvas panel

5″x7″ oil on canvas panel

I’m not sure of the origin of this saying but I fell in love with it when I saw it awhile back on Pinterest.

While on this ride called life, you have to take the good with the bad, smile when you’re sad, love what you’ve got and remember what you’ve had, always forgive, never forget, learn from your mistakes, but never regret.  People change, things go wrong but just remember, the ride goes on.

Here’s the link to this painting on the Daily Paintworks Gallery, thanks for looking.  http://www.dailypaintworks.com/fineart/veronica-brown/saddle-up/335293


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 477 other followers