Plein Air: Columbus, TX

I did a bunch of sketches today. The day started with a hazy, overcast sky, which greyed down everything, but it also enhanced the appearance of trees in the background looking like they were miles off rather than just a few hundred feet. I drove up to a scene right outside of Weimar, TX and had some trouble with all the colors being so close to grey, but it was a good warm up:


I went and worked for a couple of hours and saw the lighting just get better by the minute. The Weather Channel app was calling for rain three days in a row starting tomorrow, so I went out to do some quick studies hoping I’ll have some good ones to enlarge tomorrow as an “artist in residence” in the Columbus Art Center. I drove just outside of the Columbus city limits along the highway and tuned off on a road that said “no outlet” and was full of cracked pavement with a lame attempt to fill it with gravel. Perfect. It led to a gate along a fence with a scene full of depth. Here’s a couple small studies from that area:


I like the dark shadows and more saturated greens of the close trees versus the blueish shadows and more muted greens in the distance.

That went much quicker than I thought, so I headed back to the highway, and somehow found myself in a Beason Park, in Columbus, a place I’ve painted before. Huge oaks! I set up to do the same thing with close up trees and distant trees, but I’d be in the oak grove with soft spotlights through the leaves on the green grass. When I checked the distant trees closer, I saw the tower of the famous courthouse poking through the tops of the trees like a postcard image. It was a no-brainer. After a 5 minute value sketch and a ten minute color study, I got out an 11×14″ canvas panel and tried my luck. It would be a perfect scene for tomorrow! After about 2 hours, here’s what I ended with:


“The Columbus, TX Courthouse Bell Tower” 11×14″, acrylic

It could use a bit of adjusting, but this will work! I’ll start a 16×20″ or larger of it tomorrow in oils. Another fun adventure.

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12 thoughts on “Plein Air: Columbus, TX”

  1. Grey days can be such a challenge but with when the light just starts that certain glow, it is heavenly. I am amazed how you got that tree so much like the real thing. I never have the patience to do that….and your value sketches. I have yet to get that under my belt as a starter. Sounds like you had a wonderful day! Wouldn’t it be great to have them more often but then we would be spoiled, I guess!

    1. It’s really hard to hold back from digging into the painting when I see something, but after a few times of making myself so this, it becomes part of the process and is enjoyable. Strangely, when I do the pre-sketch, I finish in about half of the time with much better results. I bet you’d like it if it became a part of your routine. I bet it’d be great before doing watercolor sketches because they lean on value so much!

      1. Now that is valuable info because I would have never thought it helps the process, half the time and better results. Okay…..I promise….that I will do sketches for the rest of my challenge! a challenge within the challenge! lol oh boy, I just keep piling it on! 🙂 so…..do you use markers or graphite or? how large are your value sketches?

      2. There are markers that are greyscale from super light to dark. I use Tombow N95, N65, N45, and N15. I’ve seen a small lot of Prismacolor grayscale markers at Hobby Lobby that are much more compact. I use a 3×5 notecard spiral book found in the notecard section at Walmart and usually do a small sketch about half that size depending on the detail I think I’ll need. The objective is to simplify your design to have a few connected value shapes, rather than a bunch of sporadic values dotted all over. It’s a better design/composition. I’ll do a quick video clip to show you next time I’m out and send you the YouTube link if that will help. It’s one of the best lessons I’ve learned in seeing and planning good compositions.

      3. sure!….I am interested, let me know when you do upload one (or more!). It might get you started on something new….sharing your plein air experiences and what you have learned.

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