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Review of “Rainy Day” oil on paper plein air study ~

The weather has been soggy these past few weeks, which puts plein air painting on the back burner for a little while longer. So I decided to set up the gear inside by a window and pretend I was plein air painting. This worked out well, as I didn’t have to struggle with the elements and had all creature comforts available. I know, you’re saying “That’s cheating!” Well, you are correct, but I have to keep moving forward! I freely admit, I’m a lightweight when it comes to the elements!

I am still in the process of re-working  my gear to include only the most necessary items, which means going through and honestly evaluating all the equipment. In the past, I’ve carried way too much stuff. Plus, I have had to pack brushes and paint into my plein air bag from the studio, which was always a hassle. Now I am almost complete with having two of everything: gear for plein air and gear for studio. Now I can grab my bag and go when inspiration strikes.

It was pouring rain yesterday when I worked on this piece and fog was a problem, as at times it rolled in so thick I couldn’t see my scene. Here’s what I was looking at:

Forest and the road

The reflection on the road is what initially caught my eye. There’s a home at the end, as the road turns and only the peaks are visible. I felt this scene naturally  made a nice composition. The moss-covered concrete box in the foreground is an old septic tank that’s been there forever. As I began sketching my scene, a lone turkey came walking by so he became part of the painting.

Sketching the scene

This painting was done on the Arches Oil painting paper that I’m still evaluating. The paper has no real tooth and feels like watercolor paper. I don’t paint in watercolor for the reason that I like a certain amount of texture in my paintings and that’s not easily rendered with watercolors. There’s no depth to a watercolor as there is with oil. So, that’s one strike against this paper, no texture. I do however like the portability and the light weight. Unfortunately the paper does not easily take to thick strokes of paint unless the paint is quite diluted, and then we’re back to the painting looking like a watercolor. So these are things I’m working through.

Progress of painting

You can see how the fog came rolling in, so thick at one point I could not see my scene, and it got very dark in the house. I ended up having to put a light on my box so I could see the painting. The fog was really cool, but I started out without fog, and had to keep it that way. When you paint outdoors you must not chase the light! Pick a scene, put in your darks, then your lights, and then paint the rest from memory.

I used Old Holland Kolinsky brushes for a few passages, since the overall feel is like a watercolor, but it made things difficult because of the soft hairs and I couldn’t easily lay down thick paint.  I’ll be saving those wonderful brushes for studio work on canvas. Over all, I felt like the effect I was going for with the reflections in the road was lost due to the surface. I may let it dry down a bit and go back in and make corrections. Or I may not. I may just chalk this up to a learning experience and move on.

Finished Painting

Here’s where I ended, with a turkey blocked in. I do need to give him some more attention but I was three hours into this session, with set up included, even though I gave myself a goal of only working for two hours, so I had to call time. This oil paper is teaching me how to loosen up which is one of my goals for this year. I’m going to have to stick with it and allow the learning to continue.

I like how the trees were rendered, but I don’t like the distant trees, as they’re too dark. I don’t like the soils to the right of the road. It’s not the right color, but I do like the rocks on the hillside. I like some of the bare branches, but not all of them. I used a rigger brush to render the branches and some of them got away from me. Of course, the turkey is just blocked in and looks rather stupid. The concrete box needs a bit more work on the mossy top, but looks ok and I do like the foreground and how it has a painterly look. But my main focal point is not how I wanted it, and doesn’t have the wet look I was going for. The trees all lean a bit to the left around here because we are on the side of the mountain, and I need to remember not to paint literally. As I look at the overall composition, too many trees are leaning left.  I took notes in a sketchbook of all the pros and cons and what I learned in this session, so it may just all stay this way or I might touch up a few things. We’ll see if inspiration grabs hold of me. 🙂


Rainy Day