Plein Air: Garden of the Gods, View from Central Parking Lot


I went out to Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs) again parking in the main parking lot, but this time around 8am, before the crowds arrived … and they did. They were decked out with full tourist fashion: the camera, the van full of kids, dad’s bright full brim cap coupled with the equally bright beach shirt with palm trees and mom’s last minute family plan to meet back in 1 hour. It was all there. Fortunately, I thought twice before starting the painting in front of the parking lot, which would have become a continuous stream of photo ops and comments of who in the family also paints.  I hid behind it on a trail, tucked away.

The sun was rising quickly between 8 and 10:30, so I drew in a 5 minute charcoal line sketch to mark the areas of shadow and light. Within 30 minutes I had blocked in the major features and shadows using the largest brush I had and gobs of paint. The remainder of the time, I spent looking for how I could lay down solid brushstrokes without jabbing at it like a woodpecker. In the last 20 minutes, I was down to the detail brush to get the thin shadows, but not so much to be distracting. Here’s where I ended up:


It was very close to what I saw, but I changed a few details with composition in mind. I coupled the two small towers in front that cast a shadow on the back tall towers (bottom middle) and emphasized them more then what I saw.  When I got home, I tweaked the trees a bit as you’ll see comparing the on-site version and the final revision post at the top. I mostly made the trees in the lower half to block the real view, which was a mass of car windshields and whiny kids.

Artist Chat: The pallet was basic primaries (cad yellow deep, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue) and titanium white. It was very hard to get the red glow I saw and think adding an orange would help a lot. The orange mixed from yellow and red, then adding white just doesn’t have the luminous glow seen there.  There are some repetitive lines in the scene, such as the foreground tree line and the background mountains as well as in the rock formations that I’d alter a bit when scaling up. For the most part though, it went well. A HUGE plus was adding matte medium to the surface before starting in with the paint (Thanks again for that tip, John Poon!). By 10:30, the heat and dry air was making my mixed dry almost instantly, so maybe it’s time to either try adding more Golden Open into the mixes, or using a “stay-wet” pallet.


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