When I look at the collection above of the plein air paintings that I did on our recent trip to Colorado, I notice that I am reluctant to include people in the landscapes and to use vivid accent colors. Since it seems likely that we will continue to shelter in place in San Diego for some time, this month seems like a perfect opportunity to practice these two skills.
I took many photos when I was in Colorado, especially of family members at sunset. The one I based this sketch on showed my niece and her dog crossing a meadow with long shadows cast by juniper trees. Now that I look at my finished work, I see why I am afraid to put figures into my paintings! The dog looks like an oversized cat and my niece has odd arms. And I wish I had placed the dog a few inches closer to the bottom edge. But this is a start and I feel good to be figuring this out.
I had a few unfinished sketches from our recent Colorado trip, including this one of Horsefly Mesa. A storm came in while I was painting and I walked back to camp when the rain began to fall in earnest. I didn’t finish this while I was in Colorado because I was uncertain about how to show falling rain. Looking through other blogs today, I got my courage up and gave it a try.
Yesterday, several brief storms swept across us, making for spectacular skies. The movement of the clouds seemed to match the uneven shapes of the trees and ground.
We head back to San Diego today, especially grateful in this pandemic year, to my brother and sister-in-law for their incredible generosity in hosting us on their patch of paradise. The opportunity to gather outdoors with family over a long week, and across nearly forty years, is a matchless gift.
It seems a bit strange to abstract a landscape while out painting plein air, but somehow that is what happened to this painting yesterday. As I worked to show the shapes of the foliage against the many layers of the canyons in the background, I ended up simplifying the shapes, values and colors.
The view of Horsefly Mesa from Burnt Mill Mesa is one of my favorites. The patterns that the grass fields and forest groves make are striking, as is the interplay of the many shades of green. And the spectacular colors shifts that take place as the sun and clouds move make deciding on a final scheme a wonderful challenge.
We were a multigenerational group yesterday as we painted under the ponderosa pines. This sketch shows two of my nieces working, perhaps some of the younger or older ones will show up in a future post.