Afternoon in the Rockies
9 x 12
I went out to Banff to paint with Alice Helwig recently and we had a great time.
That's the easy part; the part that's tricky is having a great time AND producing some work.
Both Alice and I talk while we work. I'm not sure that it's always intelligent talk because we're also intently focused on our paintings, but it means that we work well together. I got a painting and a half out of the day. The half a painting is partially scraped out and awaiting revisions to clarify some design problems.
The piece above pleased me because it caught the drama of the light conditions. We avoided our usual rainstorm by a few hours, but the clouds loomed throughout the day, and every time I looked back at the mountain, there was a new shadow pattern on it. That was frustrating at first, and then liberating: I could do whatever I wanted, because I could never capture what I was seeing in the short time that it presented itself.
I tried something new for this piece because the Raymar panel that I was using was untoned, and I had to work fast. Using a muddy mess of mostly Transparent Iron Oxide and Ultramarine - along with whatever was lingering in my brush - I sloshed on an overall dark wash with a mix of odourless mineral spirits and walnut oil (my usual medium). Then I went straight to the most exciting part: the lit-up mountain, and put it on with a few heavy, impasto marks.
At this point I had the lightest light and nearly the darkest dark. It was easy to just develop the mid range from there.
The tricky part was layering over that initial wet mud without contaminating the subsequent layers. I had to watch the paint consistency to make sure it was always fairly heavy and would both cover the dark, and flow off of the brush without much pressure. When I describe this pressure to my class, I tell them to imagine they are petting a bug with the brush. Their goal is not to squish the bug. This image seems to help them ease off the brush and lay strokes on gently and cleanly.
I'll try this very direct method of painting again in the future. It's raw and rugged: exactly what plein air is all about.