Well, I was tired of waiting for a sunny day and decided it was a good challenge to paint a gray, overcast scene. What it lacked in color, it gained in atmosphere and subtle colors. Unfortunately, my days of painting along the roadside around here are now done. Two ladies pulled up alongside me and said they were the owners of the property. The ranchers along the road are extra cautious and pulling out their guns because they’ve had a lot of vandalism and people tailing the women as they drive home at night. Hard to believe this happens in little Weimar, TX. Sad. I told them my family ties to Weimar and about what I do with on-location sketches as an artist. They understood, but warned me that it may not be safe for me to do that right now and then called off the police. Last comment the lady made was that she had to get inside because she’s making sausage and it’ll burn. Ha. This is definitely Weimar. Glad she was relieved to know I was one of the good guys.
As for the technical artist chat side of the experience, it was fun to use an “earth colors” palette as a part of my Schoolism course. Rather than pure color, I used red oxide, yellow ochre, ultramarine blue and titanium white. The point of it is to force me to use the color complements , like red vs. green or purple vs. yellow, to make them stand out next to each other. I made the background trees slightly more purple than they were to make the foreground greens and yellows of the grass stand out. Those greens and yellows appeared almost a flat gray on my brush, but looked right next under the background. Also, the differences in value (light/dark) are that much more important because I don’t have striking colors to stand out as a design element. Tough lesson, but I learned a lot from it!
It’s shorts and t-shirt weather here in Weimar with full sun. Hard to believe it in the first part of January, but I’ll take it! I rode my bike down the frontage road to I-10 and found an old run down house crowded in some trees. I don’t normally paint houses, but it’s a good challenge for this year. There’s too much potential for painting run down homes around here. Might as well step out of my comfort zone and learn to paint them!
After watching a video tutorial by George Strickland, I began to see the very subtle shades of reflected light on the white, chipped paint. Blues, greens, yellows… it’s amazing to see something that didn’t appear to be there before. Kind of unreal. He teaches to emphasize these variations to add interest to an otherwise flat wall. The green-blue reflected light under the roof of the front wall, and the bright yellow under the eve of the side room near where the sun hits, are examples. In his video, he works back and forth, adjusting the colors from cool to warm and back again until it just looks right. His work is amazing.
I battled my fast-dry acrylics today with the unually dry, warm air. The piles of paint formed a thick wall on the outside as it dried so I’d have to push my finger on it to make some fresh paint ooze out of the bottom side. By the time I finished mixing, I’d have one swipe with the brush before my freshly mixed paint was dry. Time to break out the slow-drying acrylics or just move to oils! Either way, it made for a fun day.
I’m also learning video editing and hopefully I’ll be able to start up a YouTube channel and start posting some of the adventures.
I had a chance to get in a quick sketch before the sun went down of an old barn with a raised water tanks used for the house or cattle back in the day. This is on the edge of town about two blocks over from my house (small town!). What struck me about this scene was how the light on the red barn and rust of the tower contrasted with cool grey greens and blues of the field and background trees. It’s a simple composition, but if I play it right using deep, warm colors in the shadow of the barn, it can be a very dynamic, yet peaceful painting. The other aspect that draws me in is the softness in the grass and background vs the sharp edges of the barn and water tank. It was hard to catch this with the limited time (about 45min), but the image is cemented in my mind from studying it so closely.
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:
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.
I went out to paint close to sunset at an old ranch house surrounded by Live Oaks just down the road from me. In fact, it’s the same ranch with the barn I did a study on in an earlier post a week or two ago. What drew me to it was the bright white of the house lit up by the sun shining almost directly against it, in contrast to the dark live oaks. I had just enough time to slap down the color notes before the sun set and then took it home to finish it. I softened the edges of the trees and sky to give it a sense of mystery but maintain the peace you feel when viewing it.
I was curious what else is down this street since I now have about ten paintings just from the first three miles, so tied on the jogging shoes and did the full loop (7+ miles). I saw at least three more paintings and have seriously sore calves. Worth it!
I’ve been wanting to do this Plein air study for some time and tonight was just the right weather to get out there. There are amazing rolling hills just outside of Weimar heading towards LaGrange, TX off hwy 155. I set up, painted in the scene quickly, then waited until just the right moment when the sky was about 15 min before sunset and then it was off to the races. Paint flying everywhere. I had to be fast because I was hardly off the road with hillbilly trucks passing me at 65mph. They don’t slow down. About 1hr after set up, I was headed out back to the house to get the colors right before I forgot. I knew they’d look different in the lighting indoors than at sunset as you can see from the pic out there(bottom) and the one indoors (top). A few touch ups, and I have the color notes for a huge painting to come! Excited.
These are part of the Texas Wildflower Series of paintings (oil, 7×5″). They are painted on location and, if needed, finished back at the house. To select posts of only this series, click on the “Texas Wildfower Series” in the category links either above or below this post.
The first of the day was the Texas Thistle. It grows to about three feet and you may notice a huge white, fluffy ball about the size of a baseball when it’s releasing its seeds. While painting this, a hummingbird flew in and spent a minute or two checking out all the little florets, so if you’re one of those that like the hummingbirds on their spring migration, you might wait to chop this plant down until they pass through.
These are pretty easy to paint, being just a poof of purple-pink with highlights in the sun’s direction. Great flower to start off with if you’re wanting to paint wildflowers. I was lucky to find these with a huge clump of vines on a fence behind it, providing a dark background to really make the light of the flower stand out. It has prickly leaves, like those on a Holly Bush, but if you just make sweeping brush strokes to points along the leaf, it’s not hard at all and there’s very few of them near the flowers. By the way, if ranchers drive by looking at you in bewilderment, it’s because these are a pest in their fields and they won’t understand why in the heck you’d want to paint it.
The second of the day was a “Mexican Hat”. I was hiking down the road to find a ranch scene with distant views, huge oaks and cattle, but this flower was backlit from the sun in tall grass and really caught my eye. The unexpected surprises are the best ones. I’ve been having trouble getting the transparent yellows and reds to show up bright over a dark background. It ends up dull and muddy. I finally figured out I can wipe off the dark background to the white of the gesso and lay the red/yellow over that like a glaze. The light hits the pigment from the back and front making it appear to glow. Very cool effect! It must work, because another hummingbird flew in and only realized up close its not a flower. Best compliment I could get! Oh, and for the fun fact about this plant (odd), the “Zuni” people made a syrup from it to induce vomiting. Thanks, Wikipedia.
This is a scene of huge live oak trees surrounding a barn just outside of Weimar, TX. With about an hour and a half left of sunlight, I quickly sketched this scene. I really liked the way the oak trees curved up around the barn, sort of framing it.
Here’s the five minute value sketch to organize my plan of highlighting the barn making it a focal point:
And here is the scene:
As you can see, I decided to darken the sky and brighten up the right side of the barn. Doing the pre-sketch was hard since I was in a hurry, but past frustrations have taught me those five minutes spent with the gray markers will almost cut the painting time in half and save a lot of frustration.
About half of the way through, a random dog came up to me out of nowhere, barked and pooped ten feet from me before taking off. So, I spent the remaining time with that fresh scent. About an hour in, a man pulled up and said he lived on the ranch across the street and invited me to check out his huge oak trees. I put in a final 10 minutes, packed up and met him at his house. On the way I saw the dog in the road to the house with what looked like a grin. Ha. Mr. Janeske drove me around his property and on top of the hill is a huge, spanning oak grove with distant hills and trees behind it. Amazing scene! I told him I’ll be back for sure when the weather is right (it’s going to rain for the next week). I’m excited!
Update: I worked on the large scale version of this study yesterday at the New Ulm art festival and it sold before I left! Here’s an iPhone pic of the finished painting (I need to get a better pic later).
These are part of the “Texas Wildflowers Series”. You’ll see a category link at the top or bottom of these articles. When you click this, it will spit out only the articles in this series.
The top sketch is the “Indian Paintbrush”. I also saw it was renamed “Texas Paintbrush” (by Texas) as a more politically correct name. Sorry, Lousiana. Also, Indians don’t use them to paint. As a fun fact, the roots tap into the neighbor’s roots and steal nutients. Reminds me of how back country college students in East Texas often tap into the TV cable/internet line of the parents house and then bury the cable because it illegal, right Jeremy?
As a painter, it was very hard to paint! Adding white to red makes pink, and yet somehow the actual flower is both bright and very red. The pure, rich color was impossible to match, so I made the background super dark green and smeared on the petals with as much pure pigment as possible to make them appear bright and luminescent. As is often the case, it’s hard to even get close to what nature presents us with.
The second painting is called “blue-eyed grass”, which forms in a clumps. It’s said that it’s useful as a laxitive and treats diarrhea, so… good luck with those odds.
These flowers would be a great introduction to painting flowers en plein air. The grass and flower are both relatively easy to color match and paint. It’s also a great lesson in using light and dark color in the flowers to show the roundness of the clump. The only trick is patience. That’s a lot of flowers.
It’s been a rainy season in Texas and the wildflowers are popping up everywhere along the roads. After doing several studies like this, I figured I’d turn into a series, this being the third. These lilies (I’m guessing that’s what they are), stood about 1-2 feet tall and are the flowers spread out about 3-4″; enough to catch your eye driving by at 40mph. It actually looks cultivated, but I’ve seen them in several random places near water, so I’m guessing they’re ” wild”. Either way, they were a fun little study for the oil paints. I couldn’t decide what to do about the background while out there, so I just packed up my gear and headed back for lunch. I tried extending the busy foreground behind the flowers, hoping the simple white colors would stand out. Not sure it worked or not, but this is when it’s good to just put it away and take it out later to see it with fresh eyes.
Well, the suns about to set and I want to catch the “golden hour” for a study of the huge oaks here!