Over the past 3 weeks I have done plein air painting at Griffith Woods on 4 separate occasions. I did 4 plein air paintings. The first 3 were earnest and good efforts but were in general over done, a little heavy handed. For my 4th attempt I decided that I needed to do something differently. So this time I took half an hour to do some thumbnails and get a plan for the painting. For me this painting is by far the best of the bunch. Once again I’ve learned that using thumbnails improves the painting experience and the consistency of the paintings.
Here are the 4 thumbnails that I did. I tried out a few different ideas, namely how high to put the waterline and a couple of slightly different arrangement of shapes.
The unexpected gift I was given when I did these thumbnails was to have some people sunbathing in this fairly secluded spot. But it gave me a great opportunity to practice sketching the figure in these particular poses. Here are the very small, quick sketches I did. They are extremely basic but it’s very interesting how much information I actually got from them. In total these 2 little things took about 2 minutes.
Just for fun I took these 2 thumbnails and did them a little larger in watercolour. All of a sudden this is getting very interesting. I can see some exciting new ways to develop the ideas contained in them. Larger paintings come to mind.
Finally here is the 4th plein air painting. It’s by far the best and I must admit that I love it. The main struggle was how to represent the background of trees. I tried a bunch of ideas with none of them actually working but somehow altogether it worked out.
What I love about this painting is that it does completely capture the mood of this little gravel pile that was sunlit in a world of shadows on a very hot day. What I need to keep working on is how to capture the background. The background is a mass of trees with some of the bright greens popping through here and there. I was continually unclear what technique would best represent it. I felt that something fast and experimental was the way to go but my mind kept telling me to do detail. Draw and paint every branch, every trunk etc . In this painting I’ve somehow found a technique that’s in the middle . . . and somehow it works.
1 Week Later
I wasn’t planning to go on with this theme but I went to Griffith Woods again today (July 2) with the Thursday plein air group. This time we were right on the Elbow River at the far eastern end of the parking lot. Lots of kids swimming. Here are a few very quick thumbnails that I did. I’m coming to realize that my first reaction to a subject is so literal. I nearly always include everything I can see. But by committing to do these sketches I was able to realize the painting is about the figures so instead of a landscape with little figures I zoomed in on the real story – the figures. If I hadn’t done these I would have painted the first version and regretted it. By doing them I came up with a scene that really expresses my impression of the scene. I’m very happy with it. Thumbnails love ’em and need ’em.