The Joys of Painting in Late Summer
I had a wonderful time painting zinnias late last summer, in the Asa Gray Garden at Mt. Auburn Cemetery. So many flowers were cheerfully blooming and showing off their colors. Birds were singing and chipmunks were scampering. I could hear the gentle flow of the water fountain a few feet away. I got totally immersed in my surroundings, enjoying the sounds as much as the sights.
Challenges of Late Summer Painting En Plein Air
There are challenges, of course, to every plein air session. It’s taken me years to figure out how to be comfortable and prepared to paint outside. The plans vary a bit season to season, because so much depends on the weather.
For late summer, the 3 main challenges are: the heat, the intensity of the light, and bugs! It’s important to find shade and stay cool. Bring plenty of water to hydrate. A spray bottle to mist yourself is a good idea, too.
Strong sun brings with it bright light. If I don’t compensate for it, the painting looks darker when I bring it inside. On the other hand, too much shade can result in the opposite effect of things looking lighter when brought indoors. The movement of leaves’ shadows on the surface of the easel gives me a headache! Changing the angle of the easel usually solves this. Sometimes, though, I need to move to a more “stable” area.
Then there are the bugs. All kinds. Bees used to be my most feared insect. After painting in Peggy’s garden for many years, I’ve made peace with the bees… for the most part. My flight instinct still kicks in when there are humongous bumble bees hovering nearby. I’m not really afraid of other bugs. But, mosquitos and gnats can make me miserable if I don’t use insect repellent. Organic and deet-free for me (Herbal Armor is my choice). When there are green flies, I go somewhere else!
Adjustments to Zinnias
As you can see in the image of the painting on the easel, things were looking pretty good while still outside. The brightness of the day is captured well. The colors are accurate.
When I got home, however, everything seemed too dark. It was amazing how harsh the colors looked. I could see areas where I needed to lighten up the highlights, deepen the shadows, and fix the colors.
The Finished Painting
It’s important to tweak the painting for indoor viewing, since that’s where most people will actually see it. After making some adjustments, there was more depth and clarity between the foreground and background. The overall effect is softer.
Get a Sense of the Day
I made a short video showing the sights and sounds of the Asa Gray Garden on the day I painted Emerging. Enjoy!
Do you paint en plein air? What are your biggest joys and challenges painting outside in late summer? Please share by writing a comment, thanks!
We can also discuss in person at the upcoming art reception for my 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!