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A Day in Plein Air

Since I will be teaching plein air painting in a few weeks, I realized that I had better get back to the swing of things and start painting on location again. My last paintings have all been studio paintings, where I’ve had the luxury of working from photos, taking my time, and listening to the ball game while I paint.

Painting in the elements is a whole different story. The first hurdle is simply getting there. I packed my French Easel into my backpack, along with some water, Gatorade and powerbars, threw it in the back of my car and headed to Flat Irons Vista, 15 minutes from my house.

The trail is a beautiful one, especially at the beginning. However, I wanted to get some hiking done, so I hiked for about 1.5 miles before I realized that I could no longer see the Flatirons and that the trees were really starting to get thick. I turned around and finally found a location that provided a decent composition.

The second problem is that whatever you forget to bring, once 30 mins in, you will have to do without. I realized that I forgot to grab my camp stool.

The French Easel does not raise up high enough, so I had to find some way to elevate the painting. I found my fattest brush and used it as a shelf. I also brought along a huge tube of burnt umber, which I had thought was white, due to the fact the label had fallen off. Now I had to create this painting with no white! Thankfully, I grabbed ivory at the last minute. This now became my white.

In the elements, bugs fly into the paint, the wind will blow the canvas down into the wet paint, and the heat becomes a factor to contend with. It’s all part of the gig, the fun of the job. After three hours, it started to get real cloudy and look threatening, so I came to a stopping point and packed it up. The result is as you see here, just another day at the office.


This piece will be displayed at our upcoming show on September 10.

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