I started taking a Plein Air class last Thursday from Mark Allison, a popular Corvallis fine artist. I learned a lot from him years ago about watercolors, so for my upcoming birthday I treated myself to the tuition. Looking at the itinerary of locations where we will paint each week, it will be worth the price of admission simply to gain access to all of the locations, and know that there is a bathroom available!
I spent the first part of the session re-learning what he tried to teach me before about making a thumbnail sketch. Most of the time when I sketch, I don’t have the patience to do several value thumbnails – hey, it’s just a sketch, right? But he insists that a good pencil sketch with up to five distinct values will improve your art, so my resolution for this class is to follow that suggestion. Here was my thumbnail for the above painting:
Just the size of a credit card , it only takes a few minutes, and it was fun to try his “sketch with only straight lines” approach. Once I got the painting started, I realized too late I had strayed a bit from my thumbnail’s layout. His critique suggested that I actually had enough going on in there for two paintings, one of the foreground in the pond, the other of the background in the trees. I finished it up at home on a hot Sunday afteroon, and tried using Photoshop to crop it into several smaller pieces. Didn’t like ’em. Then I decided to try using an inked outline to emphasize what became a kind of a herringbone pattern in several places. I like that, and I hope I remember to use it next time to see if it tranfers well from cattails and trees to other subjects.
As the sun lowered, the pond noises amped up, finally reaching a crescendo when a bullfrog joined the chorus of wet pops and gurgles and plops. There is a special zen to just sitting and listening and watching as the day closes. We don’t allow ourselves that privilege often enough. The Willamette Valley is relatively bug free, so it is actually possible to sit quietly… until the red ants figure out that you wore sandals. Next time, no sandals, and maybe a nice bottle of Pinot Gris!