Plein Air at Barr Mansion

July 21, 2011

Barr Mansion Carriage House. 7x5. 2011.07.21

Plein Air painting “on the spot” will get you out the studio and give you a chance to take a drive and find new places to see fresh colors and shadows.

This weeks paint out with the Plein Air Austin group was hosted out at Barr Mansion outside Austin.  The staff at Barr Mansion have done a beautiful job creating an inspiring space to spend  a morning painting.  It was hard to choose just one spot. The 7″x5″ painting above is of the carriage house nestled in the summer gardens.  Location influences a lot of outside painting.  There are many beautiful spots but painting in direct sun is bad news, and an even bigger health risk these day in the heat. I’ll just have to go back to look for a different spot on another day.

The goal was to capture the play of sun light on the building in the early morning shadow patterns.  Plein-air painting requires quick accurate painting to capture the moment before sun moves higher and the shadow patterns and color temperatures begin to change.

I decided I needed a warm light /cool shadow focus to relate the summer conditions.  Next, I work out a pencil sketch to be sure what i am intending to paint will fit on the canvas.  Then mix out a limited value and color range.  For plein air, I limit myself to 8 tubes of paint.  R (Alizarin) Y (lemon yellow) B (Ultramarine and Cerulean for sky) +white, +black, sometimes adding a green or cadmium depending on the lighting and subject. Everything I need can be mixed from these.  Then I set about painting shapes and values that reflect what has captured my interest today.

Some small plein-air paintings can come together in a hour to hour and half.  Anything past that and the light has begun to shift significantly from where you started the painting that it can quickly turn in to a night mare if you are unaware of how long you have been working.  Not to mention risk sunburn and heat stroke in the Texas weather.

A fair days painting for a fair day of triple digit temps.

*I will post a picture below to show my easel setup on site just before I came home. 

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