Landa Park (New Braunfels): Plein Air Painting

Landa Park, New Braunfels, TX. View down the river on a cold, rainy day.  12 x 16" canvas panel
Landa Park, New Braunfels, TX. View down the river on a cold, rainy day. 12 x 16″ canvas panel

At 2pm, it’s cold. Wet. Drizzy. Surely this is no time to get out to paint. 100% chance of rain with possible t-storms is what the Weather Channel App says.  With a heavy case of boredom and curiosity of what there is to paint in conditions like this, I remembered Landa Park has a gazebo looking down the river that might make for a good scene with a roof over my head.  As I drove past Prince Solms park, down the hill through Hineman Dr., I spotted a great little water fall tucked just to the edge of the golf course beneath the trees and shrubs, so I pulled off the road to check it out. As I video taped the scene for later, something caught my eye. There was a mist above the water above the falls. It was tempting to get out the gear right then, but if there was mist here, then that scene of the river at Landa Park would be incredible.  I quickly headed over to Landa Park, Bingo! Heavy mist lit up above the water around the cypress trees giving a wispy, mystical feel.  A cliff full of trees ran along the river on the left as the river bent to the right, fading away in the distance.  I dropped my usual small sheet of paper and brought out the big guns, a 12 x 16″ canvas panel.  This scene paints it’s self. I figured the scene’s lighting would stay the same, being overcast, but 20 minutes into it, it warmed a few degrees and poof, there went the mist. It was a totally different scene! I tried to stay with my initial lay in to hold true to the misty scene over the course of four hours, but it slowly changed to what I was looking at. Just when I was finished and put everything away telling myself I’ve given it my best shot, the temperature dropped and, Poof, instant mist! It was suddenly exactly like it was when I got first arrived! Ha. I took a reference photo to note the differences if I want to change it later.

Reference pic taken as the magical mist reappeared.
Reference pic taken as the magical mist reappeared.

With the mist, the foreground trees are a muted grey mass, slightly darker than the background cliffs. Not much color. It’s a very peaceful, yet mystical feeling. Without the mist, the tree’s have more contrast with definite lights and dark areas. Also there is much more color saturation, especially in the light spring green leaves.  It presents a more dynamic scene.

I has a lot to be thankful for. There were no t-storms and some city folk risked waking the path gave me a thumbs up as they went.  A very inspiring man named Diego stopped by to chat. He decided Guam was too small for him, so he packed his thing to travel the world and hasn’t stopped in 20 years. It’s his passion. He saw me and immediately recognized it.  I’d like to think my painting was inspiring, but realistically, anybody wanting to paint in these conditions is either nuts or passionate. I told him about my being a welder and he quickly dismissed it and said I should paint. Awesome compliment. Thanks, Diego!! It’s never boring on a plein air experience.

Artists Chat: Titanium White, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Umber, Cad Yellow Hew.  With this scene, it was easier to start from the background and work forwards, keeping the background mid value and darkening as it got closer, holding the darkest dark for the foreground trees. The value changes with the disappearing mist really thew me for a loop, but the overlapping of the trees against the background really helped to keep the painting going. I actually had to throw in mid-value blues behind the foreground trees to help push them forward more.  The focal point is where the branches reach across to the little island clump of trees in the center, so I kept the lines sharp with a lot of contrast and tried to keep the rest of scene somewhat soft in edges.  The water was tricky, but using a big brush loaded with paint, using horizontal strokes really helped get the feel of it.  Mostly, I had to  remember, THIS IS ONLY A STUDY.  It’s so easy to over do it! This is enough information to go big now (18×24 or larger) using the photo references for details, but the painting for color notes.