It was 37 degrees when the sun set. Shortly after the sun went down it dropped to 29. The colors were lovely. The moon was over head. The lights in the houses and streets all along the edge of the marsh went on. They twinkled and glowed across the miles. There were no clouds in the sky except at the very edge of the horizon. I love the vast empty sky as it stretches up over head. The stars began to come out. Six geese flew south this evening. Not like a few days ago when there were a at least a hundred in the large V that went south after sunset. Maybe these were trying to catch up with them. I can’t figure out why they are still heading south in the middle of winter. It’s something that I need to check out. I love going out every day to paint. It’s really magical. After the chill we had over the past few days it felt noticeably colder today. The paint was acting very stubborn today, a little like concrete. It usually doesn’t act like that unless it below 20. For the first time ever I had a small brush freeze into a stiff little concrete stick. After a few dunks in mineral spirits and rubbing the paint out with a paper towel it was back to normal. I still haven’t had to wear my Iditarod tundra gear, maybe this weekend. It promises to be colder than this past one. We shall see.
Today I decided I needed to do some sketching. I started looking through my sketchbooks looking at my recent sketches. I remembered some sketches I saw yesterday by a french artist who paints with direct watercolor and is really relaxed in her style. I looked out the window at the back field. There were light beams running across the yellow grasses. I went and grabbed a large flat water brush. I didn’t draw anything I just started spontaneously putting in large areas of color. I kept my palette limited to 4 colors. I used a piece of watercolor paper I had in my little pochade box. It was very funky. The paper immediately pilled and the surface started to peel off. I grabbed a paper towel and scrubbed off the shredding pieces of paper. I next pulled out a brand new brush I hadn’t used yet, a large, soft, sable blend dagger . Because it’s so soft I thought it might not shred the paper. It worked like a charm! I was able to load the brush with water & paint and just let it rip. What fun! I painted the whole painting wet into wet with watercolor and gouache. I was able to maintain the loose, spontaneous feeling and get a nice variety of shapes and edges. I think I will try some of these quick paintings on different kinds of paper to see how they work. It certainly is a lot of fun to paint loosely with watercolor and gouache.
Today I decided to mix it up a little bit. This morning I thought about painting an interior scene or a view from my window. I ended up choosing a window view. This is the what it looks like out one of my kitchen windows. I was going to sketch it with ink. Then I spotted a sketchbook with brown paper in my studio so I picked that up and brought it into the house. I decide to use my gouache & watercolor combo. I painted with my sketchbook resting on the kitchen counter while I looked out the window. The sun and shadows were moving very fast. The brown tinted sketchbook paper was very different from the watercolor paper I used a few days ago for my gouache painting. This paper has a very smooth surface and can’t take tolerate much water. I couldn’t make a light transparent wash of color on it. It would buckle and ripple. The the brown color of the paper came through. I had to use thicker paint and add plenty of white for the lighter colors. Next time I might only paint with straight gouache on this paper. We will see. I need to experiment to find out the best media for this substrate.
I was out in the marsh late this afternoon. It was awesome! Huge snow clouds rolled in. It was warm, just above freezing and the wind was light. A front was moving through. After the wispy cirrus clouds this morning the edge of colder air began to head toward the coast this afternoon. Along with it came all these great clouds. I knew immediately I wanted to paint clouds, there were so many interesting cloud scapes with all kinds of colors and bits of sky. I painted 2 quick ones before it got dark. Today is the last warm day until midweek next week. I’m not complaining. It’s been a very mild January, with only a little snow. This is fine with me , when there’s lots of snow I can’t easily find places to park when I go out painting. I’ll enjoy it till February comes !
We had a snow squall last night. In 20 minutes everything went white. It was lovely. I was in the studio teaching a class when this happened. I’m glad I wasn’t out driving in it. Today there was a nice frosting of white on everything. And it snowed on and off all afternoon. I was catching up on lots of organizing in the studio today so I stayed close to home to paint. At 4:15pm I moved my easel outside into the back yard. Before it got too dark, I quickly painted a view of the neighborhood across the field. As it got dark my easel light was still packed away in the car. I said I’m not going to stop and go get it. I had the glow of the Christmas lights on my studio to help see. It was great! It was quiet, and there was no wind. Out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a big moth fly by while I was painting. I thought it was a bit cold for an insect. It was a big fluffy snow flake. It was magical.
All day we had sun and clouds with a chilly wind. I was short on time today as I teach a class in the evening, so I stayed home and painted the view of the white pines on the edge of the field. The best view is from my deck so that’s where I stayed. I could probably paint this view a hundred times, in every light and season. It’s my “hay bales” motif. I really like painting with a combo of watercolor and gouache. And I especially like painting with my dagger brush. I would paint more often with water color and gouache but they take so long to dry. Oil just lets you keep painting wet into wet. I can paint faster with oil as I never have to wait for any color to set up. Great clouds today . Somebody was getting snow showers somewhere to the north and west.
It was sunny with thin clouds today. When I arrived at the marsh at 3:30pm big gray clouds were moving in from the north and west. There was blue sky over the ocean and to the south. I set up on the top of a steep hill above the marsh. It was high tide. The view down across the the marsh was amazing. Because I was up above the marsh I could see all the brooks and rivers that flow into the marsh. There are so many water ways that you can’t see when you are standing down in the marsh. As I painted the view the clouds moved in and the sun set. The sky out over the ocean turned a tangerine yellow . The violet gray clouds were a nice complement. As a I packed up my paints It began to get dark. A street light went on and the houses near by lit up. In the woods a short distance away I could hear the non stop yowling and howling that I heard last night for the first time. I think its a pack of coyotes making a ruckus.
Tonight was a surprise. I had a long workday up loading teaching videos to my website and was still in the thick of it at 4 pm. That’s just about the time I noticed the sky clearing in the west and north. A few minutes later Marcus popped up at the studio door to see if I was going out to paint. I decided to stop what I was doing and go out immediately. I tossed my paints into the back of the car, grabbed my warm clothes and we set out for the nearby marsh. I couldn’t believe how much the day had changed since I went to work in the studio at noon. It was now gorgeous. I knew I was too late to catch the first stages of the sunset extravaganza. But I was on time to get the last bits of lingering color and the lovely deep mauve at dusk. I wasted no time. I started painting minutes after landing on location. I tried something new. I sketched the whole thing with a small brush and continued to paint with small and medium sized brushes. I really like the effect. It was like sketching with a paint brush. I’m going to try this again. It was great fun!
A big rain storm was moving out today. The clouds were amazing. I went over to the marsh to watch these great gray mountains of clouds sail out to sea. It was spectacular. There was so much to choose from it wasn’t easy to pick a spot to set up. I wanted a location where I could choose from the different lighting situations as the sun went down. I picked a location on a curve in the road with a clear view of the south & west and if I turned around I could see easily see the north and east through the thicket of brush. It was a good choice. Everything was changing non stop and rapidly. The cloud formations changed shapes as they swept through. The light on the clouds moved. The color of the light changed. The sun moved. The shadows and light on the marsh kept moving. I was painting looking into the light so I was blinded periodically by full sun in my face. I picked up the biggest panel I could find in my car. It was 11×14. It was still way too small for the vast expanse I was looking at. The size I really wanted was a 30 x 48 ! It was fabulous. I blocked in the 11×14. Then I turned around and saw the light on the clouds behind me and the last light hitting the edge of the marsh. I immediately painted a 6×8 picture of that scene. Then it was all gone. The sun set. Dusk settled in and a whole bunch of new scenes begged to be painted. That’s the story of plein air painting . It’s all about catching and painting those moments of glory when you just happen to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
On the coast today, it was raining cats & dogs, blowing hard and the sea was raging. Normally I would head out to paint when it like this. It’s perfect surf weather. I’m an experienced plein air surf painter. But I’m thinking about trying different things during this 31 day challenge. So I did something radical—I painted a still life indoors. This is my second one in this series. I stuck to my usual schedule. I don’t take a lot of time to set it up, maybe about 3 minutes, about the amount of time I have when I’m outdoors looking for a scene to paint. I didn’t get to fuss around. I got to it as if the light was going to change in 10 minutes. I picked a 5×7 panel because I had a linen one available and I wanted to try it out. I used all the extra grays on my palette. I kept it to a very limited color gamut. And I painted shapes. It was not nearly as much fun as trying to paint in 45 mph winds with sea salt on your face, your painting, and your palette, but I know I will have plenty more opportunities to do that.