In the Garden with Pastels Again

I wasn’t sure about the first one so I did another. I guess the brilliant colors startled me, compared to the muted tones of the plein air oil on paper. I didn’t even get the whole composition on the page!

I walked away still unsure about them. Then on Monday I went to Richmond to deliver five paintings. While in town I decided to visit the botanic gardens. Oh my!

plein air garden painting
inspiration plein air oil painting on gessoed paper, 12 x 9

By the time I got there my cell phone camera was down to 30% power! Hardly sufficient for an afternoon in the garden, I strategized to get the most with what I had and headed for the tulips.

In the Garden with Pastels Again

In full bloom. Fabulous colors, brilliant sunshine, a flurry of breeze. I made it through the tulips and orchid house before the camera blacked out.

Back in the visitor center a volunteer generously offered to recharge my phone with her own cord! Fizzy drink in hand I sauntered out on the sunny veranda. Recharging immediately, I wished I’d packed a sketchbook. Note to self: fix a tiny backpack with sketchbook, tiny pastel box, pencil and oh my backup Ipad!

plein air painting study
plein air oil study with pastel

Colors raced through my mind’s eye. I’d ordered new oil paints that morning. Charvin oils I’d oogled over for years were on their way to my studio! I could taste them already. Selecting them was more like selecting pastels than oil paints.

Charvin Oils are made on the French Riviera for 175 years and come in wonderful colors like Sennelier pastels. In addition to expected pigments like Cobalt Violet and Raw Sienna, I also ordered French Yellow Deep, Celadon Green, Peacock Green, St. Remy Blue, Opaline Green Deep, Meadow Green, Provence Blue, Magenta Ruby, French Blue Violet, and Green Gray Light.

They come in 150 ml tubes, which will be wonderful for the large paintings I am envisioning. Abstract gardens, colors juxtaposed.

I believe I’ll make a lid for my studio palette. When I close the lid on my plein air palette, the colors stay moist overnight. If I switch to a slower drying white, use a cover, I should be able to keep them moist for a week.

An afternoon in the garden truly feels like coming home!

abstract floral painting garden painting
Muse II, pastel on sanded card, 10 x 8,
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A Peek into Joy’s Garden ~ Plein Air Painting Lesson

Searching for small pastel papers to continue my journey back into pastel, I came across 3 plein air studies I’d done in 2013. Just after Dad died, I attended a plein air painting event in western Maryland. Mountain Maryland Plein Air in Cumberland and Allegany County is a wonderful intimate event. I welcomed the chance to paint in some beautiful private gardens.

plein air garden painting
inspiration plein air oil painting on gessoed paper, 12 x 9,

Stumbling across the old paintings in the drawer, they felt dark and lifeless. It got me wondering how they would look today. I set one beside a fresh pastel paper and began blocking in the background shapes.

I resisted the temptation of painting back into it directly. Moving on, I worked with the new palette for awhile. Nothing like it’s inspiration piece, I felt unsure.

I sucked it up and kept going.

A Peek into Joy’s Garden

Setting it in the frame helped me step back and see it away from my previous vision. I like to keep a few frames in the studio for just that purpose. So many times I can’t see a painting’s strengths and weaknesses until I see it in a frame.

plein air garden painting
Late Bloomer I, pastel on sanded panel, 10 x 8, PURCHASE INFO>

A day later I found myself in the botanic garden photographing tulips. Sitting in the cafe garden with a cold drink, I felt at home. Mind racing with painting images, colors for the new palette I’d ordered. I can taste the sweetness. Can you feel the shift in the two paintings?

I sure can. The difference between saying goodbye to Dad and stepping into Joy’s Garden is profound. I hadn’t realized until I finished writing this, that today is the anniversary of Dad’s passing. Rest in Peace Dad.

abstract floral pastel painting
Late Bloomer I, pastel, 10 x 8, PURCHASE INFO>
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The Nest ~ Plein Air or Memory Painting?

Years ago, my painting mentor Robert Mayo asked if I ever tried to paint from memory. Rather than copying nature, have you ever just painted what’s inside of you?

Mmmmmmmmmmmm. I still recall the feeling of puzzlement at his question. I had never considered such a question. He’d handed me a new coat inside out and I didn’t know what to do with it. How would I use such a thing? What is it for?

daily painting coastal landscape clouds osprey nest
The Nest, oil, 20 x 24

Plein Air or Memory Painting?

This question has lived inside me for 30 years. Now I find myself exploring some memory paintings. This one, like others in this series, comes from memories of painting en plein air at Bethel Beach.

Which way are you creating? Are you copying something out there? Or are you letting your heart and soul speak your own truth?

I remember another question put to me by my painting professor at East Carolina University, Ed Reep. Ed set up two studios for us. He had a still life in one. We put our easels in the other. He asked us to paint from the still life in the other room. Awkward and impossible, as I recall.

In a dream, rooms can represent states of consciousness. In these examples, I was being asked to go back and forth from one to the other. Stepping back and forth is good training for dancing with the creator.

In this painting, I began with my feelings of earth and sky. Drawing from memory of the feeling of being out there with my feet in the sand and my head in the clouds, I mixed a big brush full of Holbein Blue Gray with a touch of Gamblin Quick Dry White and laid in the sky. Going back for more paint, I switched to Ultramarine Blue.

Mixing Cad Yellow Deep with Manganese Blue, I answered the sky with warm green earth. I really wasn’t trying to do anything more than block in the color shapes of earth and sky. I was thinking I might take the earth sky block in on the beach to paint.

Before I knew what was happening. the landscape on the canvas was speaking to me. I slowed the process down. Sitting in the chair across the studio, I stopped to listen. That’s when I began to see the pink lights on the cloud. I painted them in and sat back down. Still thinking I would take the canvas out on the beach.

That’s when I saw the inlet. Lightening the sky color, I floated it in below the cloud. Then a line of light sand along the far shore appeared in my mind’s eye. Mixing ochre with white and a touch of red, I rubbed it out beyond the inlet. Creating the far shore. Did I get the symbolism at the time? No.

Back in the chair. It was quiet for awhile. Then I saw the nest. Right at the axis. A tiny vertical rising from the sand on the far shore with a y-shape at the top. Of course. I mixed Alizarin Crimson with some of the left over green. With a small palette knife, I scratched in the lines.

The Nest. I had put on the strange coat without a thought. Had the coat been turned inside out? Or have I? This IS my nest. Do I get the symbolism now? Yes. What does it say to you? Which way are you creating? Are you copying something out there? Are you letting your heart and soul speak your own truth?

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