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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Abstract Landscape ~ Rite of Spring

Today I used a pastel to untangle some problems I was having with an oil painting. I’d started with a plein air painting of tulips from three years ago. Rather that paint back into the older painting, I decided to create a new one based on what I liked about it.

Abstract Landscape Pastel ~ Rite of Spring  

abstract landscape pastel
Rite of Spring, pastel, 8 x 10, PURCHASE INFO>

I liked the tulips, but not the palette. So I was referring to another painting for my palette. I was also changing the design from a square to a horizontal rectangle.

I jumped in and blocked it in. A week later I was stymied.

Being lost in a garden is not all bad. I liked what happened with the landscape from yesterday when I used pastel to open the door, so I decided to try it with the garden.

My garden painting had a strong vertical shaft of greenery connecting a patch of tulips to the top. In the pastel, this element disappeared completely!

While the pastel is decidedly more abstract than the oil, I like the way the hillside blends into the golden sky. I can’t wait to see where this goes with oil paint!

By the way, I am painting for a show at Stewart Gallery in Gloucester. It will open May 6. The reception is from 4pm – 8pm. I hope you’ll come out and see these paintings in person!

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Muses of Tuscany Retreat>
Find out about my Upcoming Show>
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360 Degrees of Perfection

I was blown away yesterday when we happened on this valley on the way to Poppi. How to decide which view to paint? My kind of problem! See what you think . . .

I couldn’t get it all on one video, so I shot the second one from the other side of a restaurant which is tucked into this vineyard.

Grassina
Pelagio, oil, 16 x 20
Grassina
block in

I blocked in the green fields first, rather than the darks. I wanted to position the triangular shape of the fields in the lower center of the frame.

I used a light transparent cool yellow green (Lemon with a bit of  Cerulian Blue). This is the opposite of what one might normally do in blocking in the dark shapes in an oil painting. Like watercolor, this preserved my lights. It also made it easy to get my composition established quickly and accurately.

Grassina
finishing up the field work

On site, I felt as though my darks were not dark enough. When I returned home however, not so. Instead I adjusted the lights. On location I had painted all the warm tones, light and dark. In the studio I added the cool lights

You can see in the photo of the painting on the easel in the field, all the greens are warm toned. In the final painting, you can see how the cool greens bring highlights onto the foreground fields and tree tops.

In addition I cooled the foreground shadows  by over painting them with Ultramarine Blue, mixed with white to control the value.  This created the depth I wanted in the painting, and also added intensity to the colors.

Grassina
panorama taken from the road above the vineyards
Grassina
photos are always darker than what the eye can perceive

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