Friday, March 19, 2010

Summer 2009 Nashville Area Plein Air

I'm posting today not out of any conscientious effort to update. I'm doing this simply to stay awake. I pulled an all-nighter to meet an illustration deadline, and I'm finding it really hard to keep going. I knew that posting some paintings and talking about them would wake me up.

Going back to last summer, I practiced painting outdoors several times a week. So far I have posted paintings from my immediate neighborhood. Now I'm posting pieces from other Nashville areas. I hope I can look back on this later with a new understanding of how to paint better plein air works. 

Here is a 5x7 of Percy Priest Lake. This the only painting in this post that I feel somewhat pleased with. I had a slightly easier time with this one because there's so little green in it...I've mentioned before how the endless variety of greens in Tennessee can be overwhelming.

I painted this 5x7 of a hayfield while out painting with Kevin Menck. Wow, that was one sweltering day, even in the shade. Kevin's feel-no-pain enthusiasm helped me keep my spirits up! During this excursion he told me about Plein Air Nashville, which became a regular part of my painting activities ever since.
Here's a 6x8 of Percy Priest Lake, painted the same day as the 5x7. I hate the dull, muddy grass and trees.
Here's a painting I did on Memorial Day at Natchez Trace at sunset. I like the soft feel and the daring of attempting a sunset, but overall this has some serious value issues. I painted this one on a 3x4 inch stretched canvas.

This is the first painting I did with Plein Air Nashville. We painted the Cumberland River from a bridge near the Opry Mills area. Apparently I was having an epic struggle that day, because almost a year later Kevin remembered how I was so covered with paint that he almost didn't recognize me.

This is Nashville's iconic "Batman Building," or to be more mundane, a Bellsouth building. I painted this with Plein Air Nashville from the downtown walking bridge. 

Now for some meandering about my progress as a painter. As I have mentioned before, plein air is the hardest type of painting I have tried. Out in the sunlight, even with my canvas and palette properly shaded, I feel like I can't truly judge what colors I'm seeing in my paint mixes. My color choices seem to be bright and saturated enough when I view them outside, but when I bring them indoors I'm always alarmed by the dreadful dullness. I haven't painted much plein air since last fall, but I have been reading Schmid's Alla Prima and studying/painting with Kevin Menck and Jason Saunders since then. This continuing education makes me aware that there's a lot more going wrong that just getting befuddled by the glaring sunlight. Even if the sun really is throwing off my absolute sense of color, I still should be aware of whether my relative values and temperature are correct. If I could get this balance correct, at least in a relative sense, I think my paintings will look less muddy when I bring them indoors, even if the absolute colors may not be accurate. With time, I can probably learn to compensate for sun-induced confusion by exaggerating color saturation. But until I learn to do that, I need to be more meticulous about nailing the relative values and temperature. The hardest part about plein air is that I will need to achieve that level of accuracy within 30 minutes to an hour. 

Hey, my plan worked! I feel more awake after racking my brain to comment about painting. Now I can get back to my sleep-deprived illustrating.

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