Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Painting on Decker Road

11" x 14" Oil on Panel
When I did this painting for Midway's plein air competition this year, I took some in-process photographs of it. These photos not only show some of my painting process, but also give an idea of some of the challenges of painting outdoors. You can click on any of the pictures to see a larger image.

At the Trailhead
The day of the painting, skies were partly cloudy. I parked at the gated trailhead in the Wasatch Back and proceeded to walk down the trail to a spot I knew of from previous hikes.

Headed Down the Trail
Some of the Wildflowers Along the Way
Upon arriving at the place I wanted to paint, a mile or so down the trail, I set up an easel with an 11" x 14" panel on it. That's when I discovered I had forgotten paints and brushes! There was nothing to do but march a mile back up the trail to the car and return to the easel with the previously forgotten items.

Headed Back Down the Trail
Might As Well Enjoy More of the Wildflowers
My Set Up
Finally I could get to painting! With everything needed at hand this time, I laid out the colors on my palette and mixed up the dark purple I like to use in place of black. I use a "split primary" palette, and add a cool green. You can read more about the paints and palette I use here

The panel is toned with a thinned film of the dark purple mix, then wiped. Before that layer can dry, the painting is sketched onto the panel with a brush, and general areas are painted in with the approximate color and value I want. The darks are placed first, then I work progressively towards the lights, generally - but not always - from front to back. Once that is done, I begin to refine the painting, working from back to front.

In the next photo, you can see that the sky and the mountains have been developed further. You can also see something else. Tiny dark specks. This was the beginning of ...

The flies and gnats were pretty bad that day. The flies were big enough that when they landed on the painting or palette, they usually stuck only momentarily before freeing themselves from the gooey colors. The gnats, however, stuck to the painting like iron filings to a magnet. I was beginning to worry I would have another experience like one I wrote about in one of my earliest blog posts. The little winged pestilences affected my painting rhythm, too. My rhythm was like: paint, paint swat swat swat, paint, paint swat swat swat, This went on for most of the painting. One big horse fly was particularly bothersome. Surprisingly, none of the flies bit me, but the gnats did. Plenty.

The next photo shows how the foliage on the trees was built up. You can also see more gnats stuck to the painting.

In the next photo, the foreground begins to be developed. I've also removed most of the gnats and repaired the damage. That was done two or three times during the course of this painting. 

At this point, the weather had gone from partly cloudy to completely overcast. That caused a shadow across the top of the painting from the easel. There was no way to avoid the shadow, so it shows up in most of the remaining photographs. Hopefully, the shadow won't hinder your ability to see the painting process.

The foreground and other areas continue to be developed, as seen in the next picture. The painting is almost finished. Also, more gnats have stuck themselves all over the painting.

The wind began to increase. I braced the easel to keep it from blowing over. The painting was finished, the final gnats removed (well, most of them), and their damage undone. The painting and equipment was packed up for the hike back. The sky grew darker and the wind increased dramatically. I was sandblasted by blowing dust as I walked back up the trail to the car, but the painting made it home safe and sound. The last photo shows the painting after it had been photographed a day or two later in good lighting, and a gnat-free environment. The painting sold that Saturday at the show.

Decker Road, 11" x 14" Oil on Panel


Marilee Campbell said...

Enjoyed this. Artists are crazy to go through all this. Nice painting.

James Gunter said...

Thanks Marilee. Yes we are!