Observations and thoughts about the fine art of painting
Monday, June 11, 2012
Plein Air Watercolor Painting and Canine Rescue.
This weekend, I conducted a plein air painting workshop at Donner Lake up in the high Sierra mountains of Northern California. Both Saturday and Sunday, I demonstrated how to manage outdoor painting. We were out on the Yuba River near Donner Lake where much of the gold was discovered (and still is) during the great California Gold Rush. The top view was painted by me was at a camp site on the river's edge . . . beautiful granite outcroppings, pines, and snow melt. Notice the action in the water . . . blue sky, tree and brush reflections, and yellow ochre of the shallow river bottom. Water is not all blue! The trick to painting a decent piece, whether in the studio or outside, is to SQUINT HARD to impair your ability to see much detail and subtle value shifts. One wants the extreme lightest and darkest values to play off of each other with only one or two mid range values to bridge the gap . . . works every time! It also helps to have a modicum of drawing skill. One needs not to draw a lot of fine detail but just enough to lay down the foundation upon which to paint. The two eyes on either side of our nose must learn to see the nuances of the scene so that it can be abstracted (simplified). This takes a lot of practice and especially when painting en plein air with all of its attendant distractions . . . heat, cold, wind, insects, gawkers, lugging painting equipment, etc. The bottom scene was painted on Saturday. Distractions that day? . . . well, lets see . . . as I was painting that queer triangular piece of granite structure that had broken away from the main mass, I heard a splash and scream. A couple walking their 14 year old dog along the steep granite by river's edge had the misfortune of seeing their canine slip into the fast moving stream. The large dog had no energy to fight the current and was heading down river to a nearby waterfall! The pooche's male owner proceeded to reach for him and also slipped into the water! By this time, I ran to assist and slipped hard onto the granite. . . ouch! By this time, the man had grabbed the squirming, panicked stricken dog and was trying to wrestle it onto dry land. By then, I had caught my breath and proceeded to reached out and grabbed one of the dog's legs. Both owner and I manage to get the pet safely out of the water. The couple thanked me, and I headed back to my easel to finish my watercolor. I really love painting in the great outdoors, but I also really love painting in my boring studio! Do any of you have an interesting plein air experience? I would love to publish it.