Plein Air in the Mountains

Elbow Falls in Spring
12 x16
This plein air piece walked the line between a tonalist and a colourist approach to painting.  It was painted in the Kananaskis area at Elbow Falls, a magical, roaring piece of the river which sparkles with light and movement.

I placed the dark bank and rocks at the start, wanting them to stay simple and recessive so that the turquoise, silt-laden, mountain water became the focus of the painting.  But, as often happens, I felt that these dark areas didn't capture the light, fresh feel of the place.  Dark rocks also didn't show the huge amount of reflected light that was bouncing off of the water on that sunny day.  The longer I looked, the lighter and more colourful the rocks actually appeared to be.  It came down to the difference between squinting at the subject or opening my eyes wide: squinting reduced the colour that I saw and showed the pattern of dark objects and shadows through the landscape while opening my eyes wide allowed me to see all of the colour changes.  I kept going back and forth between the two modes, trying to figure out what I was seeing and how to convey it.

Finally, I chose to lightened up the rocks by placing the many reflected lights and colours that I saw in them.  This decision meant that I had to boost the colour of the white water as it tumbled over the falls because colourful rocks and relatively colourless water didn't work.  

Luckily the day stayed sunny and consistent for a nice long time so that I could work all of this out.  I learned a lot with this one. 


Ingrid its colourful and beautiful as always, I especially love the brightness you have captured in the snow
Bobbi Dunlop said…
You accomplished all that you set out to do, Ingrid! What a beautifully lively piece! Love your brushwork :)
Thank you, Tami!
How have you been? Are you getting a lot of painting done?