Tag Archives: plein air

Summer Painting

I am happy to report that, even after my disappointing effort last week, I did paint this week. In fact, I painted twice. I stayed in my own back yard and I started with a tiny canvas, but I took my paints outside and I painted. Out there. En plein air. Eventually, I would like to try a sweeping landscape, with some real sky and all, but I am trying to proceed at the speed of me and this feels about right. I need to get used to painting outside. I need to figure out which colors are indispensable. I need to figure out how long they will stay wet. I need to figure out how much to include in the background and how to make it stay in the background.

Little Cabbage

Little Cabbage

I think I made some progress with this tiny painting. I wanted to paint the little purple cabbage in my husband’s garden, but I remembered last week’s problem with the background, so I started with that. What’s behind this small garden is my neighbor’s garage and a chain-link fence. I tried to put them in lightly, without too much detail. It’s still not perfect, but it’s certainly an improvement over the “background” I painted last week. I love the little cabbage and the friendly plants next to it.

I was encouraged by this tiny effort – it’s only 2 1/2” by 3 1/2” – so I tried something a bit bigger the next time I took my paints into the back yard. I obviously bit off more than I could chew, but there are a lot of things about my 8” x 10” painting that I like. I like all the pots. I like the eggplant blossoms and I like the strawberry and I like the limes. I hate the window and the shadow of its awning.



I just couldn’t figure out what colors I was seeing in those window frames. They were in shadow. I knew what color they really were, which was white. Of course they don’t look white when they’re in shadow, but my left brain just wouldn’t let it go. Sometimes I can’t believe how tenacious my left brain can be. It always wants me to paint what it knows is there, instead of what I see.

I will keep trying. Every attempt teaches me something. I put my chair down in a big shady spot when I started this painting. I looked up to see where the sun was and it was behind a huge tree. It looked as if it would stay behind that tree for hours. I guess it did, but not enough hours. Once that sun hit my Sta-Wet palette, my paint did not stay wet. There were other things I might have done to this painting, but I couldn’t keep going. My paints were drying up and there was nothing I could do, with the supplies I had brought outside, to stop it.

I guess that means the sun finished this painting. Next week, I hope to make better plans and finish my own painting.


I knew today would be blog day and I knew I wanted to have a new painting to blog about, but I sure didn’t know how much I would resist actually painting something outdoors. It’s my big dream. I should wake up in the morning excited at the possibility of trying it, right? Instead, I’ve been a little bit terrified of trying it, all week long. I procrastinated most of the week away and then, yesterday, I decided I really had to make myself paint something – anything.

I put on some old clothes. I checked my painting kit and made sure all the paints were in there, along with brushes, tiny canvases, a small panel, flow medium and a collapsible container for water. I checked my Sta-Wet palette to see if the paints had stayed wet. They had. I got a bottle of water and I started looking around for some kind of container to bring the yucky water home in. That stumped me for a while. Then I went to the garage to look for my tie-dyeing apron. I did not find my apron, but I did find lots of empty dye containers. I rinsed one out and put it with my painting supplies.

It was getting pretty warm outside by then, so I packed a couple of small cans of Coke in a cooler and put that with my painting supplies. I added a folding chair to the growing pile of things I was planning to load into my car. I put some larger canvases in a bag. I started loading these things up. It took several trips to the car and back, but I finally felt ready to venture out into the world.

I got in the car and drove to a nearby park. I drove around the park, looking for something I could paint. Nothing caught my eye. I drove to another park and started slowly driving by the playground, while mothers of small children eyed me with suspicion. I saw an attractive wooden building I remembered from my Girl Scout days, but there was no way to park close enough to it to paint it from my car. By this time, I had decided that I wanted to stay in my car. I didn’t think I would be shy about painting in public, but it turned out I was not just shy, but terrified. I wanted to find something I could paint from my car. I kept driving.

Finally, at the other end of the park, I spied a wooden fence and a small palmetto. I thought that I might be able to paint that. I parked the car. I took out a sketchbook and did a quick sketch of the scene. I quickly realized that all that stuff I learned about perspective would come in handy if I could just put it into practice on that fence. I did my best and finished my sketch. Then I pulled out a toned canvas and started sketching on that.

Soon, I was ready to try adding some paint. I looked around for my Sta-Wet palette. It wasn’t there. Somehow, I had loaded my pile of supplies into my car and left the Sta-Wet palette at home. I couldn’t paint without a palette and it was getting pretty hot in the car by then, anyway, so I gave up and went home.

This morning, I tried again. I looked at the canvas with the sketch on it and the perspective was really pretty horrible. I decided to try a whole different park and whole different idea. The park I found today has a lake with trees around it. This time, I had loaded up my Sta-Wet palette, so I could actually try painting once I finished my sketch.

Sigh…I still have no idea how to paint a landscape en plein air, but I plan to learn by trial and error, and that means I have to make a lot of errors. It’s hard to share this early attempt, but I am trying to remember that I will get better and my later attempts will look great when compared to this one.

Ringhaver Park

Ringhaver Park

I’m counting on it.

It Starts

I set a new blog goal last week, so I was really hoping to have made some progress on that goal by now. All I had to do was paint something outdoors. The resistance was strong, though. I thought a lot about painting, but I didn’t paint. Yesterday, I even put on my painting clothes and set up my new Sta-Wet palette. Yes, I have a new Sta-Wet palette. If I have a stalker-type fan out there, you may remember that I gave myself a Sta-Wet Palette at the end of my first blog year, and then you never heard another thing about it.

Well, it turned out the original Sta-Wet palette had a problem. It wasn’t cute. I was shopping in an arts and crafts store recently and saw that there was such a thing as a cute Sta-Wet palette. I went back with a coupon and bought one. Here, you can plainly see the difference:

Not Cute vs Cute

Not Cute vs Cute

As soon as I had acquired a cute Sta-Wet palette, I was sure I would rush right home and use it to create the first of my fifty plein air paintings. I was reasonably sure. Anyway, I thought it might happen. I was wrong. I was tired. Something came up. No plein air painting occurred.

Not that day. Not the next day or the day after. Not yesterday, either. I was seriously looking at the possibility of having to write one more blog post about procrastination. I couldn’t face that, so this morning, I finally did something. I took my paints and my cute palette into the back yard and I looked around. My husband had been potting things up recently and a maple seedling caught my eye. I needed to paint something I found personally eye-catching and that was it.

Maple Seedling

Maple Seedling

It’s itty bitty, but I painted it outdoors, so it counts.

A New Goal

If you are a regular reader of this blog (there are a few of you out there – even one or two who are not related to me), you’re probably wondering when I’m going to set a goal for my third blog year. I’m six weeks into it and I haven’t said anything about a new goal. There’s a reason for that. I’ve actually been toying with the idea of not having a specific goal this year.

As a procrastinator, I end up putting a lot of pressure on myself in the last month of my blog year. January was intense this year. I met my goal of creating fifty paintings before my February 8th blogiversary and then I just collapsed for a while. I thought about new goals, but I couldn’t make myself commit to anything. I was blogging every week. Wasn’t that enough?

It’s something, that’s for sure, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough because I want to paint and I’m not painting. I don’t know why I’m not painting. I think about painting. I have paints. I have canvases. I have brushes and palettes and time. Why am I not painting? I fear it’s because I have a goal in mind, but it makes me a beginner again and I’m afraid to take it on.

I want to paint outdoors. I want to learn to be a plein air painter. If I set a goal of painting fifty paintings en plein air this year, I can’t just put off half of them until January. Even in Florida, January is not a great month for painting outdoors. I might have one or two nice days; I’m not going to have twenty-five. If I set this as a goal, I’m going to have to keep up with it. I’m going to have to do my painting while the sun shines. To complicate things, I have a day job as a tie-dye artist. This also requires working outdoors in reasonably good weather, and I’m about to enter my busy season.

I have plenty of good reasons for resisting this goal, but my heart wants me to take it on. I’ve been fighting my heart for weeks, but the heart wants what it wants. Who am I to argue with my deepest heart? Okay, okay, okay…I’m setting a new goal. I will paint fifty paintings before my next blogiversary and I will paint them outdoors.

There. I said it. Am I happy now?