Posts Tagged ‘small painting’

Plein air at Tower Grove Park- Wait, my subjects left!?!

April 7, 2016

What do you do when your subject leaves before you’re finished painting????

I recently took a workshop with Dave and M. Shawn Cornell and the focus was on studying your subjects in sketch, paint, and just with your eyes and mind–committing as much as you could to memory. The logic behind this is so you can “paint what you know”. To drive the concept home, we did several Notan (small drawings used to establish balance in a painting’s composition) sketches of landscapes and views, totally from our mind. After doing several of these, we then chose one that seemed to be the strongest idea and worked on developing the concept. We did more detailed Notans if the scene, detailed Notans of the details of the scene, and then small color studies of the scene. Finally, we did a larger painting using only the reference materials and studies we’d made. Normally what we found, is that the scenes were places we recognized, saw on a daily basis, or favorite places that have been committed to memory because of our fondness for the location.

This was a tough exercise for a lot of us (including myself), but it would turn out to be a great exercise that I would put to use, sooner than later.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that I had been doing the “painting a day challenge for the month of March”. I’ve been trying to limit my time on these little studies each day, to one hour….or at the most an hour and a half. Each week, I sort’ve changed subjects or themes. One of the last weeks, I was painting horses. I’ve been drawing and painting horses since I can remember but, I still needed practice in getting them down quickly and correct so, these studies were proving to be great exercises for me.

Last Sunday, I went to Tower Grove Park to paint with members of the MOPAPA group. I painted a flowering tree first thing, then I migrated to a pavilion to eat lunch with a few of the members. As I was walking up there, I saw a Clydesdale hitched to a carriage and the gentlemen driving him was there to give carriage rides to the park visitors. I took a few pictures, chatted with the driver a bit and went on for lunch. After lunch, we decided to set up and paint one more painting before calling it a day. I walked around and looked at the flowers and the ponds and kept coming back to the Clyde and carriage. Could I pull it off? Could I paint quick enough to get a gesture and idea of the scene before he went around for another ride? I decided to take on the challenge and setup my easel from across the pond from the carriage, where there were tulips in front of the horse. I started covering my canvas with a wash and started drawing feverishly, and there went my subject. He was only there for a few minutes before he started giving a tour around the gardens. Eventually he came back and I started painting like a mad woman again….he left about 5 minutes later. So, my quick draw studies and my exercises at the Cornell workshop started paying off. I started filling in what I remembered from studying the horse and carriage earlier while chatting with the driver. I also adlibbed a bit based on what I knew about horses and harness in general. I reached a point that I really needed to see the carriage again….so, I worked on the background, waiting for my subjects to return….except they never did. They were done for the day.

So, what do you do when your subject leaves? Well, if you haven’t done any homework or studied your subject much, it’s going to be really hard to paint what you don’t know. So, you either have to surrender or hope to come back another day and hope for the same lighting and subjects. I had accepted the challenge and feel like I pretty much walked away winning. I’ll let you decide.


Painting a day 2016-Day 7-Elk and Aspen

March 12, 2016
Day 7

Elk and Aspen-5″x7″

Day 7-another elk from the Rockies.  I’m continuing with the quick painting (1 hour or less), alla prima style (wet into wet paint-all in one sitting).  These little daily paintings are a way for me to practice sketching, work out color and value and just make me practice on a regular basis–forcing my hand to remember how to handle the brushes and make them work for me rather than against me.

This guy was trying to herd a group of cows and calves through an aspen grove one rainy morning.  There were other bulls trying to move in on his harem and he was having a hard time keeping up with everyone.  He was trying to get his group out to one of the open meadows, where, I’m guessing it was easier to keep them grouped and away from rivals–he wasn’t succeeding.

We had no idea just how many elk there were in that aspen and pine grove until they started moving through and trying to catch up to the rest of the herd.  It was awesome chaos for a bit accompanied by cows making little whining noises for their calves, bulls bugling and other bulls answering, and the sound of branches cracking and rustling as the large mammals moved through.  It was tough to capture photos during this time because of the tree obstructions, no worries, sometimes it isn’t about having a photo to remember the exact instance-sometimes it is about taking it all in and just filing away mental notes.  It is about closing your eyes and remembering the sounds, the misting rain, and the saturated colors.  enjoy.

Ace–Day 4

February 4, 2015
7"x5" oil on canvas panel

7″x5″ oil on canvas panel


Ace-value study

Day 4—Painting a day challenge for February

Here is the link to the painting in Daily Paintworks Gallery:–value-study/330498

Continuing with the value studies theme, I decided to get back into my equine subjects. Meet Ace—this guy is quite a personality. A bit ball of muscle and energy wrapped in horse hide. This guy LOVES to run and LOVES to play. He can be just wired one minute and then nonchalantly grazing without a care in the world. He is one of the nosiest, or should I say, most curious horses in our little herd. The problem is, he also seems to be the most accident prone….not always a good combo. There isn’t a whole lot that seems to rattle this guy; gunshots, farm equipment, ATVs, you name it. Ace takes it all in stride, unless he wants it to rattle him. By that, I mean, he took a page from Murdock’s playbook and sometimes uses something odd as an excuse to spook, just because he wants to take a moment to get loose and get squirrely. Did I mention, he also likes to strut his stuff once in a while and show off a bit?

Along with a bit about Ace, I thought it would be fun to post an “in the process” photo. With these value studies, I’m taking a bit of a different approach. Most of my paintings start out with a line drawing, however, with these little studies, I’m starting out with a wet, burnt sienna washed canvas and then proceeding to “carve out” my subject. This process is proving to be A LOT of fun and really refreshing my creativity. I’ve done this process a few times before when doing Plein air studies but, I tended to favor the “line drawing” approach more. That may not be the case any longer after this month!


7"x5" value study in process

7″x5″ value study in process