Plein Air: A View of Stillhouse Lake (Belton, TX)

plein air painting
8×10 acrylic view from a peak near Dana Peak Park overlooking Stillhouse Lake.

It is definitely spring here in Central, TX.  I went out to Dana Peak again to hike and find a good spot only to find the small parking lot full and cars lining the sides of the road for a quarter of a mile!  I went to my favorite sitting spot in a peak about 400 ft above the lake level and it was packed with people.  About a month ago, kids came up to the peak and cut up a lot of cedars and brush to have a fire, unknowingly destroying a habitat to an endangered bird (some kind of “cheeky warbler” or something).  Now the rangers have warned us the entire trail system can be shut down if this continues.  I don’t like to see a habitat destroyed, but I must say, the view from the peak is spectacular now! Rather then trying to see through brush to see a lake, it now has opening for a 360 degree panorama!  Stupid kids (but thanks?).

Reference pic of the view.  The sun was going down and changed the colors, but you can see the scene and no brush to limit the view.
Reference pic of the view. The sun was going down and changed the colors, but you can see the scene and no brush to limit the view.

The reference picture doesn’t show the colors, but it was captivating to see. The low water level is causing a large area of shallow water just off the peak of the peninsula in the photo. With limestone and caliche, a light tan color, on the floor of the lake, the colors of the water shown through as a translucent tan, emerald green and cobalt blue. Stunning.  By the crowds of people walking by, it’s obvious the news is spreading that this is a sight to see.

I tweaked the painting a bit to thin and arrange the trees better, lose the distracting shoreline directly below me and pull the peninsula closer to attract more attention to the water colors.  I wish I could have included all the colors in the shadows, but it’d be too tempting to look at that and not the water.  One story at a time, right John?  Perhaps it’ll be another painting.

What a great day!

Artist Chat:

I kept the foreground dark (around 70% with 0 being white and 100 being black) and the rest about 50%-15%.  To match the colors accurately, I used the brush forward technique (hold the brush up to the color in scene to compare). Thanks for that tip Ed!  Most of the colors were very close to greys, so I mixed these colors together until it matched:

paynes grey, titanium white, cobalt blue, alizarin crimson and “process yellow”.  This is similar to what Kevin McPherson describes in his book, “Fill your Oil Paintings with Color and Light”. 

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