Misadventures of Plein Air Painting

I’ve been painting en plein air for about ten years now. Maybe that’s why I was a little inattentive as I ventured out this morning to meet with our local group of painters for this first time this season. I packed my supplies the night before, and had everything in the car ready to go. Or so I thought.

It was a brisk morning, the temperature had only reached the high 40s when I arrived. I donned a stocky cap and my down painting jacket. After morning pleasantries with the other artists, I found a spot to setup and reached for my viewfinder. Gone. Emptying out the contents of my backpack yielded no results. Sigh. Ok. No problem. I can wing it. A square format looks good, “I’ll go with a 10×10 since it’s been a while,” I say to myself. I set-up my easel and reached for a panel. Guess what? No panel. No problem. A quick jaunt to the nearby car to grab a panel. No 10x10s. Ok. I guess I could do 12×12. That feels ambitious for a first painting of the season, but ok. Plenty of people paint much larger on location.

I trot back to my spot to layout my paint palette. I have reds, greens, yellows, earth tones, oranges, greys (hey! There’s the burns sienna I’ve been looking for!). No blue. I always have Ultramarine Blue, Pthalo Turquoise and Cobalt Blue. Sometimes I even have Payne’s Grey, Bice, some fancy Sennelier Blue, and Cerulean. Not today. Not a single blue. The closest I have is Chromatic Black and Pthalo Turquoise (which might as well be green).

Well, I guess we’re going with a limited palette today. Good thing it’s overcast! An hour and a half later, I was ready to wipe the painting, but I told myself to keep going. After all, this is all about practice. I did my best to ignore the people yelling at their dogs in the dog park, the sirens wailing in the distance, the heavy machinery down the road, the parents yelling at their children, and the voices in my head. I remembered to step back, to “mix brains with paint” as my teacher said and think through the problems of temperature, value, edges, and drawing. I made brush strokes and laid down paint. And it felt good.

Next time, I think I’ll bring some blue paint. And water. Water would be good.

What do you think?

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