In August, I spent a weekend painting and relaxing at Omega Institute, in Rhinebeck, NY. I started 3 paintings that weekend, and now I’ll share with you the process of finishing those paintings when I returned home.
Sometimes, I’m able to start and finish a painting in 1 sitting, but it’s not a common practice for me. Whether it’s because I paint “slowly” (whatever that means!) or because I need to take a break, 2 to 3 hours is my “standard” block of time for a painting session. When I travel, I move to a new location for each new session, simply to get a different view. Once I get back home, I sit in my lovely backyard, surrounded by a beautiful floral garden, active with bees, chipmunks, squirrels, and birds, and leisurely finish a painting. Removed from the original scene, I am able to step away from my rational mind and tune in to my spirit. I can then paint with my heart as well as my memory of the place, and not get caught up in being photo-realistic.
Morning at the Lake
The first morning at Omega, I went to the restful, quiet lake and nearly completed a painting. It’s always interesting to paint a familiar scene and see how subsequent work differs from earlier work, hopefully revealing growth. Compared to my first paintings of the lake (see my SHOP, and scroll to the bottom of the page to find the 2 paintings from that day: Omega Morning and Omega Afternoon), I noticed that my sky is vertically deeper and the overall plane of field is flatter, thus expressing distance more accurately and less abstractly. Finishing this painting involved adding more details and fine-tuning everything.
Here are the first (left) and finished versions (right):
Mary’s Farm in the Afternoon
After lunch, I walked down the road with my packed Art Comber and introduced myself to the owner of this picturesque farm I’ve admired for years. I always make sure I get permission to paint on anyone’s private property, so I got Mary’s go-ahead and set myself up underneath a large tree.
Many days later, when I sat down to finish the painting, one main thing struck me: there was too much contrast. The background was too dark and the grass was too light. My solution was to introduce a small amount of sky.
You’ll notice other adjustments to the original blocked-in elements. The grass needed to be darker in the foreground and get gradually lighter as we rose up the hill. The cross-section of fence felt like a tension point, so I got rid of it. I darkened the fencing to match the bark on the right tree. The dark purple shadow in front of the farmhouse was behaving like a solid object rather than a shadow, so I altered its direction slightly and toned it down. The roof’s shadow was darkened, the windows simplified, and the stone foundation finessed.
Here are the initial painting (left), and the finished version (right):
Challenges at the Sanctuary
If you read my blog post about the weekend, you might remember the challenge I faced while painting the next morning at The Sanctuary! To refresh your memory, this is an excerpt from that post:
The morning was a bit chilly, so I was wearing blue jeans. After I set up my easel and started to paint, the sun rose above the tree tops and I began to realize that I had not chosen my spot with this in mind. It got hotter and hotter. I didn’t want to move, because I was locked into my blissful “scene”, but I was not feeling very blissful.
An hour into the painting, I realized that I was also struggling with the composition. There was a candle situated on a pile of stones that I felt was juxtaposed nicely with the lily pads. Yet, here I was drawing and re-drawing those straight edges that kept looking stranger and stranger. Finally, I stopped and took a deep breath. Exhale: ahhhhhh! “Get rid of those stones!” I said aloud. With the exhilaration of artistic license, I painted water over those stones and they disappeared.
I wasn’t sure about what to do with the background, but for the time being, I had a painting that I could enjoy finishing in the comfort of my backyard. The stones were still visible, so I used workable fixative in order to successfully paint a layer of colors over them. The water was such a nice turquoise that I changed the background wall to a healing purple. I added a short wooden container wall to “house” the water. Cascading ferns and plants were added to complete the background.
Lily pads seem like simple shapes, but they’re very tricky to render correctly, and mine still felt awkward to me. Again and again, I sprayed workable fixative so that I could reshape those tricky plants. Adding to the problem was the type of paper I was working with, a new medium for me: 4-ply bristol coated with a thin layer of coarse, rose-tinted ground. There wasn’t enough tooth to this ground to accept the usual amount of pastel layering I apply.
Nonetheless, I persevered and finally reached a pleasant solution. Given the difficulty I was experiencing with the paper, I was relieved to be done! Any future work on this surface will have to be with more familiar subjects. Here are the first (left) and the finished versions (right):
Share Your Thoughts
Do you paint outdoors? What equipment do you use and how do you transport it? What is your current challenge with creating artwork? Have you mastered lily pads? Please share your process!