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Plein Air Painting Demo
I have always loved the deep greens, yellows, and sienna's
of some of the deep pools as the Merced flows through Yosemite Valley.
The colors stand in sharp contrast to the grayish walls of Yosemite Valley.
This plein air demo tries to capture that feeling. You can read more about
my painting experiences that day on my weblog.
It was a winter day and not much light.
I did however locate a nice pool at the west end of Yosemite Valley.
This is a snapshot of the scene.
In the low 30's, it was barely warm enough to do an acrylic painting.
Since acrylics are water soluble, it is difficult to paint in below
After locating the scene I wish to paint, I pencil in a quick sketch
of the scene. I want to capture the colors and reflections of the
river, so set the horizon line high with the large rock towards
the top of the painting.
This is a shot of my palette. When I paint
outdoors in acrylic, I use a paper palette. I don't mess with any
type of 'stay-wet' palettes or boxes as I usually paint fast and
use a spray bottle to keep the acrylics from drying.
My palette here consists of Thalo Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Quinacridone
Red, Cadmium Red Medium, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Dialiryde Yellow,
and Cadmium Yellow Medium. I use other colors, but for today, that
is my choice.
Before I get too much into the painting, I usually mix a combination
of Ultramarine Blue and Quinacridone Red to form a purple. I also
sometimes mix Thalo Blue and Cadmium Red Medium to get a rich gray.
I next block in quickly the general colors.
I do this primarily to get rid of the white so as to judge values
better as I go along. Many times I prepare my canvas with a coating
of Yellow Ochre or Burnt Sienna to tone the white. However, today,
I am starting with just a white canvas.
For the background, I am using the mixed purple. The other areas
are from the mixed gray. The water is Cad Yellow Med and Thalo Blue.
I usually try to let this stage dry before going on. Outdoors with
acrylics, this generally takes only a few minutes.
I then start working from the background
forward. I usually work from the back to the front so as to be able
to overlap foreground objects more crisply and readily against the
Here I have blocked in more of the distant mountain and the sky.
I am using the same basic colors as the previous block-in.
I keep working forward, blocking in the
tree line on the left, working the distant stream bank, then the
stream itself. I am working more colors into the background such
as Burnt Sienna in the stream bank.
I work the entire painting again, giving everything another coat
I generally do at least three complete layers over every part of
the painting before it is complete. Acrylics tend to be thinner
than oil, and this multiple coating technique builds different colors
over one another giving more depth and feeling to the painting.
At this point, I start putting more detail
in the distant trees. I also work the far stream bank a little more,
adding more detail such as the rocks. I start adding reflections
in the distant water.
I start adding some Sienna to the water in the middle ground which
are the rocks in the bottom of the river.
For the large rock I switch to a palette knife. The paint here
is laid on fairly thick to form the consistency and sculpture of
the rock. I use the premixed Gray and add Burnt Sienna, premixed
Purple, a little Sienna and others to give the rock more texture
||I now work further on the pool of water. The
green is quite brilliant, so I use primarily a mixture of Thalo Blue
and Cadmium Yellow Medium. For the darks in the stream bottom, I add
Burnt Sienna, and sometimes the purple which I mix from Ultramarine
Blue and Quinacridone Red.
I continue working on the foreground pool
and begin to sculpt in the smaller rocks with thick paint and a
palette knife. I used the premixed gray along with Sienna for these
I also begin to develop the reflections and patterns in the bottom
of the pool.
I continue to work on the pool, working
the deep greens into the reflected light.
I also start adding in the reflected light in the pool. I do this
by dabbing a little light gray at the top of the reflection and
then pull it down with my finger.
I keep adding more reflection on the surface
of the water. Since the under painting is dry, it is easy to drag
down a wash of grayish white to indicate the reflections of the
rocks. I also add some white sparkles around to give the effect
of the glinting water.
One of the advantages of acrylics over oils is glazing can be quickly
done in the field. With oils, you would have to wait days for the
painting to dry in order to accomplish the same effect.
I spent just under two hours on the painting, and this is the way
it looked as I was finishing it on the scene.
||Here is a photo of the scene when close to
finished with the painting. I forgot to mention, it rained, sleeted
and hailed while doing this study. You can read more about that day
and painting on my weblog.
||Here is the final painting. After I got home,
I realized the light reflection in the water detracted from the overall
scene, so painted some of it out and grayed out the rest.