Plein Air on New Year's Day
16 x 12
I've painted this view at least 10 times. It's not even a rivulet in the strict sense of the word, more of a little piece of overflow off the river, but it's shape is an elegant S-curve and water is my favourite feature to paint outdoors.
Here's a confession: though I live within sight of the magnificent Rocky Mountains, I have no urge to paint them. I prefer the intimacy of small, unremarkable pieces of land and try to show how marvellous they actually are.
What caught my eye that day was the reflection of trees and sky in that brilliant, enclosed piece of water at the top of the S. It looked like an opal in a rough setting.
Because I hadn't arrived terribly early (it was New Year's Day after all) and the light is gone by 4pm, I had to work very fast to knock it all in. After a quick massing with Ultramarine blue and transparent red oxide, I placed the focal point with lots of confidence and paint. What a great start!
Unfortunately, the colour turned out to be wrong, and it was only after I'd placed colour in most of the other elements, that I could properly judge the right hue for that little gem. It had a lot more green in it than I originally thought, partly because I had put so much warm land around it and it needed to be cool in comparison, and also because my eyes had become keen enough to see it properly after an hour of staring at it. So I scraped the bold impasto - more than once - and tried different mixtures until one of them sang out.
Then it was just a matter of keeping my eye on that spot during each application of paint elsewhere, making sure that it continued to be the most important part of the painting. I toned down and greyed all of the other shapes, keeping the paint less interesting than that thick blob of light, and I was done in no time. What a grand way to start 2013!
Happy painting and the best for you in 2013.