Plein Air

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.

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