For years I drove past this pasture filled with yellow flowers and thought how much I would enjoy painting it. I realized the property backed up to a subdivision near my home so I would get out for a few hours to paint. I met the owner as he was cutting the field as I was painting it. I asked if I could paint the front of the property, and he and his wife were happy for my painting friends and me to spend time working there. It has become our go-to place during the stay-home order this spring.
This property has become one of my favorite landscapes to paint. 11″ x 14″ $400
The Baton Rouge Plein Air group painted at Cinclare Plantation in Port Allen, Louisiana at the tail end of the sugar cane harvest. It was a cloudy, humid morning, and we spent quite a bit of time looking for a paintable scene. There were several white houses along a gravel road that led to another cane field. The structures appealed to me, but it was the color of the leaves and the road leading to a neutral colored field that made an impression on me. Fall color appears late in the season in SoLA, and as long as there is not a lot of wind, it hangs around for a few weeks. Knowing the trees would be stunning just as soon as the sun broke through the clouds, I blocked in the shapes, pushing the color where I believed it should be (and because it’s what I do) and waited.
Finally, the sun appeared, throwing light on the yellow, orange and red foliage. The clouds disappeared, and I was able to put some blue in the sky. Happy Day!
Light is twinkling everywhere, now that the Christmas season is upon us. Retailers have had decorations up since the beginning of November, and neighbors try to out-light each other with displays in the yards and on their houses.
At the end of November and beginning of December here in South Louisiana the leaves finally turned to yellow, orange, and scarlet, and their contrast against the blue sky was amazing. The light reflecting on the foliage resembled sparkling jewels; the display lasted about ten days before fading.
It’s been a few weeks since I have been out in the field painting, and it was not hard to see I was sorely out of practice. I am not an outdoor person, but there is something about being in nature trying to capture a feeling or image that makes putting up with the cold/heat/damp/maybe rain/once snowflakes a pleasure. For me, painting en plein air is not so much about the product but the process. Of course, getting a good painting every now and then is pretty cool.
The first weekend in May, I spent time painting the sights of Gautier, Mississippi. This small town on the Gulf Coast is home to friendly people and lots of boats. The plein air event was my first experience painting boats.
For years I wanted to participate in a plein air event, you know, when artists get together and paint a certain place over a couple of days, compete against each other to win prize money for the best painting on the wet wall, and maybe sell a few. Like a golf tournament for painters. In Plein Air Magazine articles are written about the big events around the country, with photos of stunning landscapes and stories about the artists who are like rock stars in the world of outdoor painting. Being part of one of these happenings was on my retirement to-do list.
I heard about “Paint It Orange” from my niece who just happened to be working for the Hillsborough Arts Council in North Carolina. That’s a pretty good distance from Prairieville, Louisiana. My husband said I should go, my sister told me I could stay with her, and since I have been in plein air “training” for the past few months, I decided to give it a try.
The first day I had all my stuff ready to go so I would not miss a minute of painting time. I have never driven in the state of North Carolina, but I drove to the arts council in my brother-in-law’s Prius (another first), had my panels stamped, and then I was out on my own. Since I did not have the luxury of casing Orange County prior to the event, I went to the first place where I could park, which was the Hillsborough Riverwalk. Unlike my home state, which is green almost year-round, the trees were just beginning to turn yellow, orange and red. For the rest of the trip, I searched for brilliantly colored trees to paint. On the second day I had the privilege of painting at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, and for the first time in my plein air career, I had to wear gloves to paint. The last day I painted on a farm where there were barns, sheds, beautiful trees, and many dogs walking their owners.
The wet wall event was well attended, and a lot of paintings sold. I finally got to meet many of the painters I followed on Facebook. Even though I did not win a ribbon or sell at the reception, I felt a sense of accomplishment–being part of a three day plein air event that was on my retirement to-do list. I plan to do it again.
One of my painting friends said that plein air painting during spring was not as interesting as during the autumn season. Everything is green. That’s the problem with some landscapes. There is just too much green. Spring has a range of palest yellow to a medium range accented with colorful flowers. The richness of summer foliage can be almost blinding, especially in the dazzling sun. Autumn’s green is rich and more varied, touched with reds and ochres. Here in South Louisiana, green is part of the landscape year round, even during winter.
An artist commented that he counted over twenty different hues of green in the prairie landscape of North Mississippi where I grew up. Really? Was that all he could count?
I started painting outdoors about fifteen years ago after working almost exclusively from photographs. I took a workshop with Allayne Stevens through our local art guild. Not only was it my first plein air adventure, I was using oil, with which I had little experience. I was amazed how differently I saw colors in life as opposed to photos. It was challenging to figure out how to make them.
Green is one of my favorite colors, but it is frustrating trying to make the correct hue and value for all of the different ones out there. There must be hundreds of different tube colors of green. I collected quite a few from workshop instructors’ supply lists as well as from reading what other artists use. I try to limit the number of colors on my palette, not only to keep the amount of paint I carry to a minimum, but to achieve a more harmonious composition. I am still struggling to achieve the green I perceive. I love bright colors and have a difficult time neutralizing them. Or maybe that will just be my thing…brilliant greens, and lots of them.
Since I have not been able to get together with my friends to paint during the week, I decided to do a little plein air painting on my own one afternoon after school. There is a fabulous green-gold colored tree across from the school that is just begging to be painted, and once again I could stand on the sidewalk and work.
I parked across the street. The crossing guard stopped the three lanes of traffic so I could make it safely across the street. Then I realized I left my canvas in the car, so back across I went. At least I got some exercise. There was a shady area to set my easel. After making a sketch, I began to paint
One never knows what will happen outside or who one will meet. The cross-country team from the high school ran by, and the coach followed on his bike. It turns out we were former colleagues, so we had a nice chat. When the cross-country runners passed on their way back they complimented my work. A student walking home from school stopped and showed me her art portfolio. The after-school detention group even spoke. I packed up before the traffic became too heavy to cross the street.
My painting was just a quick start. I may never complete it. Being outside on a perfect October day with cobalt skies and cadmium yellow wildflowers swaying in the field just for the fun of it may be the best reason of all to paint.
Last weekend I accomplished something I have waited five years to do. Patience does pay off.
When I began teaching at Dutchtown, the school was situated in a rural area. There was a convenience store where one could buy fried chicken and a cold drink for lunch, a Texaco station where the owner would come to the school, pick up your car, wash it, inspect it and return it, a nursery/greenhouse, huge live oak trees and fields where cattle grazed and hay was baled. Now the convenience store is under new management, the Texaco is a self-service center, the nursery/greenhouse is a high school campus and some of the live oak trees were removed to make a parking lot at the Walgreen’s. The hay fields are still there, and I have been waiting years to paint them.
I started plein air painting many years ago. Not being an outdoorsy type person, it’s almost surprising that I will pack paints, brushes, camera, and an easel to spend several hours in uncomfortable conditions just to start a painting. The difference in painting from life and a photograph is difficult to describe. One must experience it. But like those who play golf every weekend, I love to be outside making art, and I have something to show for my efforts.
Back to the hay bales in the fields. I often saw them rolled up during the week and thought I may have a chance to paint them in the early morning or late afternoon light. I would ride by on Friday afternoon to find them already taken away, or there would be rain (the sun on the hay was important to me), or another event such as a Saints game kept me from painting it. OK, pure “I don’t feel like getting up this early” thoughts were a factor too.
But a few weeks ago, everything fell into place. The hay was cut on Thursday morning, baled on Friday, and still in place on Saturday. The early morning sun was brilliant. I took my new easel and set it up on the sidewalk across the street from the field and started working on a small canvas. I felt as though I was cheating because I was standing on the sidewalk in Geismar, Louisiana painting a rural landscape. People who were jogging stopped to see my work. Drivers blew their horns! (I am a rock star when painting in public!) I had so much fun I went back on Sunday morning even earlier to start a different canvas.
The morning light was losing its warm glow when I noticed a white Cadillac Escalade slowly drive down the center lane. Figuring that the driver just wanted to see what I was doing, I started wiping my hands and getting my stuff together to leave my site. Then I saw the vehicle parked behind my SUV and a young man getting out. I was a little worried that maybe I was painting forbidden hay.
He told me that he had baled the hay a few days earlier and noticed that I was painting the field the day before. He and his family were coming back from Mass, and he wanted his twin girls to see what I was doing. Well, of course! Turns out that his father-in-law owned the property where the hay was. He also invited me to check out his property further down the road where it would be safer to work. The girls seemed to like seeing a “real” artist at work.
So finally after so many years I have a couple of good starts on paintings and a future site to paint on. It was definitely worth the wait.