Plein Air: Dana Peak Fishing Area Trail

6x8" acrylic.  This is a rough sketch. Can't wait to get out for another try!
6×8″ acrylic. This is a rough sketch. Can’t wait to get out for another try!

This is quick post before I head out to a welding interview.  After getting some steel toe boots and staring at job listings all day, I saw a chance to get out this area around Stillhouse Lake that I’ve seen before.  There is so much detail out there, I felt it was a good time to study how to simplify a scene into big planes. I lost the light before I finished all the way and tried to add the final smudges of paint at home.  After doing this, however, I can see this really does have a good composition and I can’t wait to get back there for a larger sized plein air painting.

Off to the interview (two-day interview!).  Keep your fingers crossed for me.



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”. 

Plein Air: Dana Peak Lookout

"Dana Peak Lookout Point" Acrylic, 6x12"(ish).  Some plein air practice under the sun.
“Dana Peak Lookout Point” Acrylic, 6×12″(ish). Some plein air practice under the sun.

17 days and counting until the big trip to the Appalachian Trail, so I got out an old rucksack, piled in 25lb. of rock (and art gear) and took off for a 5 mile hike at Dana Peak (Belton, TX).  It’s become my training grounds.  This wasn’t a day for quiet, peaceful moments, but rather a real leg workout up all the hills I could find, sweat rings on my cap, and battling the cotton-mouth from uphill lunges.   After finding three separate ways to get lost on a single hill, I saw this look out view.  Imagining the scene of the Smokey Mountains fading into the distance in delicate shades of blue-gray haze, this was perfect for practice.  Plus, it just rained, clearing out the stagnant look to the water and replacing it with a crisp cerulium blue almost like you’d see in the beaches of Hawaii. Almost.  Here’s a picture reference from the iPhone.

reference pic
reference pic

Looking back and forth from the reference pic to the painting there’s LOTS of room for improvement (drawing, values, perspective…).  That is a VERY GOOD thing!  It means I can get back out there, get lost again and next time nail this scene.  When I do get to that awe-inspiring morning sunrise on Clingman’s Dome or one of the balds with a 360-summit view, I’ll be there, paints in hand.  Can’t wait!

Made a few last minute changes before hitting the sack.

Last minute changes.  I like em.
Last minute changes. I like em.