Plein Air: Fall Colors in New Braunfels, TX

Fall Color in New Braunfels, ~8x10ish, acrylic on paper
Fall Color in New Braunfels, ~8x10ish, acrylic on paper   (Click image to enlarge it)

It’s been a while since I’ve had energy/time to get outdoors for some painting. Post turkey dinner and a good sleep last night gave me just enough of a boost to head out to my favorite spot in New Braunfels to paint, Cypress Bend Park.  The fall colors are amazing this year and the leaves of the cypress trees lining the edge of the river are now a deep burnt orange.  I’ve noticed a house at the far end of the park on previous visits. It sits close to the river nestled in the trees. Now with the fall colors and sunlight at just the right angle, it presents a fantastic scene to paint. The light color of the house really stands out in contrast to the foliage. Setting up, it didn’t take long to fall into my routine and I had a sketch down in about twenty minutes. I took some extra time to define the house and I’m glad I did! The sunlight changes quickly and I wanted to catch the shadows cast onto the house from the trees.

Hour one: I’m having trouble blocking in the basic colors as the paper is like a sponge, sucking up loads of paint. It looks like a dry, brushy indistinguishable mess.  When people pass by, they ask what I’m painting even though I’m pointing straight at the target.  It’s the awkward stage. Hour two: finally I have a “house” and little kids nearby can say, “Are you painting a house?”. It’s progress. Hour three: the house is more defined with the dark trees and sky starting to produce some focus to the painting. “Hey, that’s really … neat.”. I know it’s getting there if I’m up to the “neat” stage. Hour four: Now I’ve painted details like the shadows are on the house, the fall colors highlighted in the trees and rippled sky reflections in the water. A man with his kids comes over and tells me his story of being a lifelong salesman and says I should go to the house and see if they want to buy it. “Go around dinner time, so they are all there.”. Hmm. By the end of 15 minutes, he had my complete sales pitch revised and finalized. “For $49.95, you can have this or I can paint a larger size [for more money]. Half now, half later.”. Ha. You never know who you’ll meet. It’s all a part of the adventure and it did feel good to know I’d progressed past “neat”.

The light had changed so much by the fourth hour you can hardly see the house, but here’s the scene at the time I stopped. The warm, setting sun really cast a glow on the trees! Just another excuse to go back and try and capture that “glow”!

The scene by the time I stopped.  The light and shadows change so fast!!
The scene by the time I stopped. The light and shadows change so fast!!

Artist Chat: Titanium White, Cobalt Blue, Medium Red (orange), Cad Yellow.  It was nice using a limited palette with a complex scene. Even though the sky was more of a cerulean blue, it simplified things greatly to just use Cobalt. I spend the majority of time on the house details (and fighting my drying paint) rather then all the other details in the trees.  It’s so easy to get distracted by everything, but downplaying all the details of the river and reducing the trees to just smudges of fall color kept the focus on the house. All the color notes are about right, so it’d scale up nicely using these colors and adding more detail to the house with a reference photo.


6 thoughts on “Plein Air: Fall Colors in New Braunfels, TX”

  1. JUST STUMBLED ON THIS ENTRY- (never check my gmail!) Congratulations Bro, you have come so far, so fast-

    Hope you will learn to tune out the “background noise” when you are creating a masterpiece! I have to deaden myself to my surroundings ( people, distractions) in order to be sensitive to my subject, and the moment.

    The deal in San Angelo taught me to really relish in the COLOR- especially in the shadows… to spice up the visual impact and attract an audience… Got so pumped I have painted a dozen paintings, many of which are very large canvases, trying to fix thise ideas into my style… permanently. More excited about painting rthan ever. That’s the blessing of our occupation.

    Hope you are having a special time with your family this Christmas!

    Thanks for keeping us posted… even if some of us are a bit negligent in keeping up with your wonderful journal.

    1. Thanks, Russell! Wow, a dozen paintings? That’s awesome to hear San Angelo tipped you learn about shadows. I’ve heard of flattening out the lights to add more depth and interest to the shadows, but haven’t dug into that one yet. It’d be great to hear more about that as you test it out! Merry Christmas to you too.

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