Last summer, my friend, Dari, invited me to paint in her garden, which is full of attractive flowers and plants. How wonderful it is to have friends like her! On hot, sunny days, I prefer painting in the shade to stay cool. Yet, the change in light and temperature do alter one’s perceptions. The primary challenge on this July afternoon was to capture the colors of Dari’s beautiful hydrangea which lives in the shade. I didn’t want the painting to be too dark.
Work in Progress
Initially, I was happy with the composition and colors. It had the looseness I wanted. The flowers felt accurate. The leaves were tricky though. The shadows were playing mind games with me, as sometimes the leaves looked olive and other times they looked more apple green. My first rendering of the leaves contributed an overall darkness to the painting. So far, the painting was pretty flat, and everything seemed to be in the middle ground.
Next Steps While Painting in the Shade
My next step was to add some highlights and deeper shadows. This helped, but now the contrasts were too strong! Suddenly, the flowers were leaning more towards blues without enough lavenders. The leaves had too much yellow. I knew I had to continue trying to find the “sweet spot”.
I gave the painting a rest for a few days. When I returned to it, I quieted the highlights, tweaked the leaves, and added more red to the flowers to get back to the lavender hue. I played until I found a good balance between the foreground and background.
Painting in the Shade at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
A week after starting this painting, I came back to Corkscrew Swamp to finish it. The reflection in the water wasn’t quite right. So I took care of that and added a few other nice touches. This is a good example of the challenges of painting in the shade. The scene itself is extremely bright. There are always lots of decisions to be made when painting en plein air.
I’d be curious to hear about your experiences of painting in the shade. Is it challenging for you? How do you deal with those challenges? Please share by writing a comment, thanks!
Or, better yet, come to the art reception for my upcoming 2-woman exhibit Seasons of Light. We’ll be at the Old Schwamb Mill in Arlington, MA on June 24, 2023, 2:30 to 4pm. Details on my calendar page. This painting, along with many more recent pieces, will be on display and we can talk about art and life!
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