Miller Springs Plein Air Painting

Miller Springs #6 Plein Air: Down at the Creek

Miller Springs Plein Air Painting
Down the Ravine at Miller Springs 6×8″ acrylic. (click on this picture to see it enlarged and clearer)

Catching a break from the cold fronts, hordes of people piled out of their houses to breathe some fresh air and tire out their kids before bedtime.  I did my best to get lost off the trail and found this area about 200 yards off the trail down a ravine.  I was sure I’d found a sweet spot to hear the serene sounds of dribbling water coupled with lightly chirps of bird. “OH MY GOSH, LOOK! LETS GO DOWN HERE!!”. “DAD, WE WERE JUST HERE!”. “JASON, STOP. WAIT FOR US. [whistling] HERE BOY, DUKE! GET BACK HERE, $&#^(#! DOG!”.   Yep, I had gone 100 yards off the trail, then somehow looped back 80 yards back toward another trail, and these sweet shouts were a recurring theme for 3 hours. Hmm.

Despite the hordes, it was a very sweet, sunlit spot begging to be painted. I did a quick value sketch (pencil and paper) to really nail down what I want to emphasize in the scene. I love the rocks, especially along the dark bluff. There were some great underwater rocks with gobs of green algae that would be fantastic in a larger scale!

I finished up, took some reference pics to see how the scene compared to the painting, and said bye to the endless screaming kids and the bad dog, Duke.

Just finishing up
Just finishing up
Do the colors match?
Do the colors match?

Artist Technical Stuff:

There were several good spots along the creek, but this had the best composition simply because the large, dark bluff with overhanging roots provided a great contrast to the sky and rocks.  Most of the other scenes were good, but almost everything was about 50% value with maybe a few shadows under rocks. Not enough.  The first impression of a painting to a viewer waking up to a painting is largely based on contrasting values, then colors.  I used the same pallet:

  • cad yellow
  • titanium white
  • cobalt blue
  • alizarin crimson (red)
  • payne’s grey

In scaling up, I may lighten up the background  to push it back a bit and make it a cooler blue, but with this study it’s a pretty accurate depiction of the scene to tweak from. I constantly questioned if the rocks were brighter than the sky, but the sky was about a 20% value while they were the lightest in the scene (~10%?).  That was perfect to get the greatest contrast in the focal area.


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