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>
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