On Friday I went plein air painting in Fish Creek Park. I love to paint on location but I’m not wild about travelling long distances so I generally stay pretty close to home and it was nice to go a little further and visit an area that I’m not too familiar with, Fish Creek. I was very excited to try to put to use some of the new techniques I have been exploring lately. I was immediately faced with 2 of my main plein air challenges. The first being that search for the perfect composition. I love being amongst all the trees and the rushing creek but it’s almost overwhelming to identify a ‘scene’ to paint. Knowing that there is hardly ever a ready made perfect composition, I looked for a view that offered a lot of contrast. I found a view across the creek with a rocky shore mostly in shadow but with a couple of paths of light created by the morning sun. Behind this foreground was a patch of very bright green, sunlit grass, then a band of the blazing white Bow River and a far shore of muted blues and greens with just hints of detail. I thought this was a good scene. The next challenge was to simplify the profusion of trees I was seeing in the fore, mid and background. A quick sketch helped me make a bit of sense of the whole thing. This is the image that resulted. As I look at it I think I could have simplified and organized the trees even more to create a more focused composition. I used my more experimental approach to create the texture of the foreground which was just a mass of largish rocks. I like that. I also like the light path that leads the eye into the composition. I chose to leave out the creek.
When I got home I thought I could improve the composition and did a second version which I think improved the design of the trees but I’m not sure it actually improved the painting. This shows, once again, that something special is often imparted to a painting done on location: a spontaneity or feeling that just seems to happen and is so hard to capture in the studio.