Back on the horse

Someone said to me the other day that they had not seen anything new from me in a while. The last plein air event was Memorial day weekend and because of the hot weather it’s likely the last until fall. I’ve been catching up on some yard projects that I’ve planned for years and they always take three times longer than first estimates. But this Saturday I took a break and drove down to my tried and true painting spot, Mountain Park.

Over the last year or so I’ve spent a dozen or more days painting here but still enjoy the views and the peace of this little hidden away hamlet. There was a big outdoor event at the pavilion so I parked near the damn and walked across to the other side ending up with a view looking back at this curious structure with a small utility shed smack in the middle of it. I went back to basics and did some small sketches beforehand. It was nice not to be under a deadline and I took my time working out a view that included about 40% shoreline. Simplification is so crucial to plein air. You must decide what to eliminate or you will never finish. Biting off to much to chew is common mistake, and I fall prey to it often.  This view at 9 x 11 might have been much better a bit larger but I started thinking that I would warm up with this and work on a larger canvas as the day progressed. Again, things change and sometimes I get lost in the work so this ended up being they only painting of the day. I spent a lot of time on the damn section—it’s complicated and took a lot of geometry and perspective. I also tried to keep it higher key so as to give it some distance. This entails lightening the darks and greying them out to decrease the contrast and give it some feeling of distance and atmosphere. I also planned for a strong light up front on the tree closet to the front to lead into the picture. Finally I used a log in the water to break the large shape of the water and balance the horizontal of the damn.

Again this would have been just as easy – perhaps easier on a little larger canvas but in the end it has good structure and color. I toyed with the shore a bit working in some shadow and light in the background. This also gave it much more depth. All day a DJ was playing some kind of techno mix from the park on the other side of the lake, what a contrast to this quiet and placid scene.

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