Tides are Changing Study was done on location at Stony Creek village. This is one of my favorite places to paint and I often talk about it in my blog posts, but this time I'd like to share about my painting process.
Painting from life is truly the best way to learn to paint. Back in 2012 when I started painting again, I would set up still life arrangements in my studio and paint small paintings 6 x 6 inches up to 12 x 12 inches. I was able to complete 2-3 small paintings a week even with a busy schedule of shuffling kids around from school to activities. Reflecting now this training was vital when it came time to paint en plein air. I didn't know this at the time, because plein air painting wasn't even on my radar. I was enjoying these small still life pieces. posting and sharing on Daily paintwork art gallery and displaying them in a local coffee shop.
It was in the spring of 2012 that one day after dropping off my step daughter at elementary school I pulled into the driveway and looked over at our garden and decided, that's it I have to paint this. I had a portable easel used a TV table and set up right in the driveway. I can remember that day so clearly because it was the absolute best feeling to be outside capture this incredible scene in real life, not from a photo.
Transitioning from studio painting to painting en plein air can present a new set of challenges for any painter. With weather changes, wind shifts, clouds moving and the sun is always on the move, no wonder it's easy to get frustrated.
This night a Stony Creek the sky had this beautiful pinkish orange glow, and just as the sun was setting it looked like it would be a magnificent sunset. Like so many we had seen before. But that wasn't the case tonight. The purplish blue clouds rolled in and eclipsed the sun and blanketed the sky leaving only a sliver of that gorgeous color to poke through.
This is when I had to make a decision, did I go with what I original saw or should I modify the painting to match what I saw before me. From past experience and many failed pieces, I have found it best to stay with the original vision, to the best of my ability. It's hard because that means you need to rely on your memory for color and your sketches for shapes. And that's exactly what I did.
The next morning I worked a little bit more on the plein air study back in my studio with a few quick glances at the photo references. Which were really not that much help because they didn't capture the beauty that I saw with my own eyes.
I knew I wanted to turn this piece into a large painting. I had 30 x 36 canvas available and started the "block in" or first layer. This is one of my favorite stages, it moves quickly and within an hour I have the base down. Like a skeleton, it's the bones of the painting. From there I start to work the larger areas, the sky, clouds and water. It was when I got to the details of the boats and the houses on the islands I found myself stuck.
My small plein air piece didn't give me enough information, nor did the photos. So that night we head over to Stony Creek just about the same time the night before. But this time the sun was just too bright, the glare was too strong and the photos were completely washed out.
On to plan B, the next morning I headed back again around 8am, I knew the lighting would be completely different but my goal was to spend an hour just sitting on the dock with my sketchbook in hand drawing just the boats, islands and houses.
Back to the easel I go, I had enough information to tackle just about all the missing pieces but the lobster boat in the foreground. Since the boat was turned the other direction I couldn't get a clear view inside and at the angle I thought was just right.
So, what did I do, yep, I headed back to Stony Creek the next day hoping the star of the show would be in the right place to capture another sketch. No chance, I did a few sketches waited about a half an hour to see if it would turn but it wouldn't budge.
Plan C, I hopped in my car, drove down the street, parked my car in front of the library and walked down Hull's Point Road. Peaking between each house to see if I could capture the lobster boat in just the right angle. I truly hope the neighbors weren't watching me. And then I spotted it, I had to hold my camera up high in the air to shoot a photo over the dock in the foreground but I did it! Back to the studio I go!
With this last round of reference photos I was able to complete the painting. What an adventure but so worth the effort. I'm so thrilled with the way this painting came out and now, I'm ready to start another!
Thanks for reading and enjoying the creative process with me - it's always nice to have fellow sojourners to travel with -
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