Catching Painted Skies

July 13, 2012

Catching painted skies!
Well it has been a busy summer thus far.  Already into July here in Texas, and I’ve found little time for my blog.  But with the summer adventures come summer fireworks and we have been lucky to welcome summer storms and much-needed rain.

sweeping storm reference.

I get to welcome the added advantage of ever-changing skies.   The skies change rapidly in color and shape as the winds sweep the fronts along.  So one should always be ready with the friendly camera, timing and a bit of luck to catch rapid changes.   Add in the cooling temps and rhythm of spattering rain you have all the ingredients for great paintings.  Not to mention any excuse to paint purple skies is a welcome playful palette.
Love it!

Storm front at Sunset.

Last week brought unplanned packing and traveling. But I remembered my clever Easy-L paint box and was able to pop in a few paintings even while on the road.  Don’t get me wrong, it was not as easy or stress free as it should be.  But I did manage to find a southern window, added a spectrum lamp small adjustable office chair (from the office) and started about to mixing my limited palette.  5 values of gray, + cerulean, alizarin, cadmium red light, lemon yellow, and violet mixture for my shadows.

I focused on the simple movement and shapes of the clouds for the first 5×7. I intentionally minimized the warmer landmass to balance against the vast cooler sky mass.

Storm Sweeper. 5×7 2012_07_07

In the second 5×7, I was working on layering and rolling the edges and shadows of the clouds.   The challenge was moving from warm sun kissed edges of sunset to the softer violets in the underside.

Sky Fish, Sunset Storm. 5×7. #2012_07_08

It’s funny what the eyes record and the brain registers.  Some where along the way it evolved in a credible Sky Fish painting.

 

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It’s March and spring is mostly here. We are finally receiving small blessings of rain to quench the dry creek beds and slowly refill a few of our rivers and lakes.  Yes, only a few,  in the past 2 weeks we have received most of 3-4 inches. Our famous spring flowers and Texas Blue bonnets are sprouting hungrily to take advantage of our spring rains.

Though it does not end our drought conditions by any means, it does make for fun finding the spots for spring paintings.  I’ve managed a few small paintings despite our wet season.

Leander Hills, West view. 6x6" #2012_03_03

Even the cloudy days are a welcomed site.  Offering softer changing shadows and colors.  Hazy days easily show atmospheric perspective in our distant soft rolling hills here and occasionally reflect the warm glow of early morning sun as it peeks through the cloud cover.

Stewart Ranch, Dripping Springs. 6"x6" 2012_03_08

The trick is remembering to scale down all the visual noise or info and simply look for the shapes and rhythms found throughout the hilly landscapes.  I find myself often reciting a mantra to remind me of my conscience depiction of cool light warm shadows for cloudy days or warm light and cool shadows on sunny mornings with distant blue hills familiar to the Austin vistas.

Working quickly and settling on you composition is 50% of capturing what you find.  The other part is knowing you palette ranges and remembering to simply suggest the terrain, since it is often a study to work out larger studio paintings.

Picking plein air locations are as much fun as planning a spring walk or picnic venture, only I get to paint what I find too.  More spring colors are blooming each morning so there’s plenty to inspire with our vast blues hills.

New Paint! New paintings…

February 11, 2012

New Paint!

New Paint has arrived!

A new year has started and is moving along.  It’s already into February of our New Year here with our colder winter spell too. I have been stealing time in my studio as weather temps permit, since my studio is in the garage. It’s currently nearly 50 degrees out there.  So it takes a bit of time to get it comfortable to work out there. Paint has a happy temp for optimum working conditions, and below 50 degrees is not it.

Between cold spells I plan the next stage of paintings and continue to push on new projects currently underway here in the studio. But that growth requires more supplies.  Thus More Paint!  I have officially moved onto ordering the super tubes in hopes of making it through the bigger projects.

Hamilton Pools *BIG Sky* stage 1

My BIG project for Hamilton Pools is well underway. Notice I have the smaller 18″x36″ painting study above the panels here for comparison.

It's going to be this BIG!

By BIG, sort of, I mean a 3foot by 6foot painting.  And yet, sometimes it’s not quite big enough to relate the magnitude and majesty of a Texas sized treasure. Yet with all large paintings larger quantities of paint are required.  Mixing the calculated colors and values are again a critical part of paint consistency.  Matching values changes ensures the ability to relate visual atmosphere and depth of such a large project.

Hamilton Pool *Big Rocks* stage 2

Stay tuned to watch the growth of this painting project.  Time to catch up, lots to do here. Will post more later.

Soo Cold & Plein on SoCo

December 10, 2011

So Co Cold.. But I still want to paint the hustle & bustle of our Winter season here in Austin.

Winter painting comes with many challenges. Most importantly COLD!

SoCo Skyline

Our winter in a damp cold this season. It seeps past the layers of socks and denim to wick away what body heat is left after the warmer temps have fled.  It has definitely set in full force here with high temps in the 50’s for the past week, not to mention the wind.   No, I don’t adapt to cold very well.  Our summers are in the triple digits, I can tolerate being hot.  But being cold is just plane miserable.  Yes. I have figured out how to mostly stay warm when I’m out.  mostly.  But cold toes are Miserable.  The damp always finds it’s way to my poor toes, even with wool socks. So I can only bare painting for most of an hour.  After that’s its just torture.

Secondly, the lighting effects caused by hazy winter sky’s (which make it colder too).  Natural light reflects differently from sunny afternoons and colors appear to be more muted in the haze, but warmer in contrast to the cool winter light.  Which means adjusting my palette to accurately record what I see, when I’m out on sight.

SoCo Colors

This morning’s paint outing with Plein Air Austin was one of our local favorite spots.
SoCo!  in Austin.

South Congress offers eclectic shopping in vibrant little shops sprinkled with unique artisan tents and colorful food trailers.  One of a kind shops like BigTop, Turquoise Door, Continental Club, Austin Boots and more.

SoCo overlooks the state capital building and downtown skyline below the river.  It is a popular tourist attraction and favorite place to shop for many Austinites.

Today’s painting pic was a popular spot on a cold morning: JO’S.  Another great example of Austin’s charm and colorful buildings

Winter cup of JO's, 5x7, 2011_12_10

Notice how washed out the building is in the background.  That is a great example of the change in natural Winter light.

SoCo Jo's 2011.12.10 5x7

Updated image of the color study

My studio was not so chilly,  today.
Many more corners await to be painted.

Oil and Water do Mix!

December 3, 2011

Yes, Oil and Water do mix to create beautiful and many vibrant color combination.

Today’s adventures prove just that.

I braved the wet weather to venture back to historic to Lockhart’s Dicken’s Christmas.  Lockhart is just south of Austin and is a quite little town that offers a lot of charm in building architecture and people.

Historic Lochart buildings. Veiw from square.

It is a bit special to me since I spent many summers there as a kid.  Everyone was gathered for holiday festivities.  Yes, it is a bit miserable when its cold and wet.  No I’m not comfy in cold, I am a southern child after all. For a few moments I actually saw promise of sun this morning.  I welcome the rain, we need it here.  I need to paint too. The two will have to fair together sooner or later.

The challenges of painting in the wet weather can be numerous, but not insurmountable.  First, dress accordingly, in layers for temp changes, pack extra sweaters.  Writs-lets or gloves with open fingers work well for painting with warm hands.  *helps control brush longer in cold weather.  Some dry fit suits have pockets for hand warmers.  Don’t forget your hat, even for rainy seasons, it really helps cut the glare from other reflections.  Try to find an awning out of the wet and wind.  Lastly, work quickly, winter weather can change quickly too.  Take lots of reference photos.

An interesting observation for cold dreary (wet ) days –  lights and colors sparkle!  The wet contrasts against the more neutral grays common to mist and suddenly the buildings warm up and become new again.  The winter mist helps to soften distant edges and sharpen winter color changes.  All lends to excellent conditions for great paintings.

I start with my usual set up of sketching my choice spot, lay oil paints, then work out a hue and values to match. Rough in a value paint sketch and then add my color.  The water soluble oils work just as well as in the wet.  I like that it’s easy to get more water if needed, though it might take a bit to fill up any other containers in a slow drizzle.

All in all, I managed to come back with a colorful little jem today, too.

Lockhart Jewel. 2011_12_03 5x7

Plein and Simple

November 9, 2011

Yes, Plein and Simple Painting can be just as fun.

This past Sunday I met up with other painters out at Westlake Beach here in Austin.  I decided that I would simplify my painting materials for this trip since I had invited my family to join me and didn’t want all the added burden of my larger plein air palette pack.  That’s a side satchel that weighs about 8-10lbs when packed.  And there was the possible weather to consider as well with 40% rain expected and an early setting sun as well.

So my solution was simple. I grabbed my Homee watercolor palette a few sheets of paper and my sketch book.  It offered a wide range of available color in a clean transport and manageable in a tight spots.  It also allowed me to quickly adapt to my subjects as the light changed.

water color travel palette

Westlake beach is small, but neatly nestled at the base of the hills on the south side of the lake created by the dam below.

South View

It also offered a stretch of grass and covered picnic tables to host our picnic.  Not to mention offered a dry spot between the rain spells.  Yes, you will endure painting in the rain when you have had little rain in the past year.  It was much welcomed to see the stormy sky line. The changing weather offered interesting play of lights and the setting sun broke through the moving clouds to guild the distant hills along the water.  I was glad to have my watercolors for a change.  However I think I will add a few bull-dog clips to clamp my paper and prevent unwanted kites as the wind picks up.

Westlake Watercolors South View. 2011.11.05 size5x7.

Not bad for a quick little outing.

 

 

Plein Air Painting Again

October 15, 2011

It has been a spell since I managed to squeeze in a bit of Plein Air painting in the Austin hills.  Though I spent last Saturday at the Round Rock Chalk Walk and finished a small city scape. It’s not quite the same as venturing into our local creeks and hills to paint. There is just something special and energizing about painting out in nature.

Painting under the Oak tree.

Today, I joined fellow Plein Air Austin artists for painting adventures. I trekked out to Bull Creek Park located on the West side of Austin.  The park has recently been reworked to feature restrooms, plenty of picnic tables, hiking trails and a pavilion near the creak as well.  There you find limestone cliffs chiseled and weathered into  wonderful cliff faces.  Large rock slabs make up the beautifully carved creek bed of Bull Creek nestled amongst hiking trails and large shading oaks. There was even a bit of trickling water to sooth the mind for a spell of painting before the sun rose to high over the hills this morning.

Bull Creek offers plenty of great spots to paint. The hard part to plein air painting is of course toting all of your paints and easel to where you want to paint. The second part is settling on a spot and finding a workable composition. So today, I settled in under a trusty oak tree near enough to hear the babble of the creek but still offer plenty of shade and 2 agreeable compositions. On of the hill side shadows and a second of the rock slabs.

I find it best to stick with small formats (3.5×5 up to 5×7) when in the field.  This ensures completing a scene before the lighting changes significantly.  Yes, some times I can manage to paint more than 1 while out, like today.  But that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied with the results.  So I cam home to put a few finishing touches on the hill-side and try to resolve the rock slabs.  But even with good reference pictures of the rocks, I still struggled to get it together even here in the studio. I have to venture out another day for a better chance at resolving the rocks in to a solid composition.

So I shall conclude today’s painting with just the one little gem.  Yes, there are actually houses on the top of the hill edge, up there.

Bull Creek, South East face. 2011.10.15. image: 4.5" x 5"