Plein Air: Garden of the Gods, Center Stage


I woke early to go back out to Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs) to plein air paint before the crowds arrived. Having a few walk by and comment to talk about what they see is great. I love it. But, hundreds of tourists taking pictures, and making comments is a different story. I found a place to park on the west side of the towers and wanted to walk to either the south or north to get a view where there was both sunlit and shadow sides of the rock as the sun rose in the east.  Heading straight through the center to get there was a huge mistake. I saw so many incredible views, being immersed in red towers on all sides. It took almost looking at my feet to ignore it in order to not stop and drool as the scenes. Well, I didn’t make it. A small sunlit group of rocks with the main tower in shadow as a backdrop was more than I could bare. Too beautiful. I set up my easel in the center of it all, cringing and saying, “What are you thinking, Steve. Bad idea. Bad.”. Imagine setting up an easel on the side of the walkway in an airport. Yeah, bad idea. Then I’d look up again, see those rocks and I’d keep setting up.  In about 2 1/2 hours, about fifty people stoped and talked to me and I am now a feature in many vacation scrapbooks and blogs.  As I was finishing the painting, I had full crowds behind me!  It was strange. That painful scenario I’d imagined wasn’t that bad. Painting is so relaxing for me, it didn’t matter who was around. What’s more, I enjoyed seeing people pass by and then stop take a second look at a scene. They wanted to know what I was seeing, and then they’d point to feature of the rocks, like the fire orange strip of indirect lighting that seems surreal. It felt great that they were experiencing this scene with me. One lady stopped an mentioned the paintings she sees in the galleries aren’t as good [hint, hint]. That’s very encouraging.

Well, I went home to patch up a few places I didn’t have time to get to… and one brush stroke led to another, then another. Before I knew it, I was floundering in trying to get the painting back to where it was! Well, hopefully I didn’t kill it, but it was another repeated lesson to finish the painting on-site and be done. I may take the painting back out there and fix it if needed. Here’s the reference photo:


Critique: I do like how adding warm colors in the grasses and bush in the foreground, as well as in the shadows of the rock seemed to pull it forward from the background. Also some of the darker shadows in the rock had the same effect. What I wish I had done only add the warm colors to the bush and maybe add a couple deep, dark shadows, but to leave the original thick brushstrokes on the rocks alone. There were some areas were a dry brush marks left places of canvas peeking though, but in hind-site, I should have left it.  It had the illusion of rough patches of rock with little white highlights. In reading Richard Schmid’s book, Alla Prima, he is constantly tackling the same problem and he is a contemporary Master. He has a wife that takes his brushes away and tells him to stop. Maybe I need to get an artsy wife. Ha.

Another great adventure!


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