Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Two plein air pastels

It has been over 20 years since I did any plein air painting, and that was during one of the art classes I attended while at the U of A.  When I came out to AZ, I shipped my French portable easel out anticipating lots of outdoor painting.  Alas, that did not happen.  Weather, lack of a travel tray for my pastels, aversion to sunburn, and other reasons really kept me from going out. 

However, the other day, I was tired of being inside.  It was a beautiful warm day out, not too windy, and beautiful swirling and fan-shaped cirrus clouds were decorating the sky.  I decided to do some plein air sketches of the clouds/sky, and then my attention turned to the nearby section of the Tucson Mtns. that is east of where my mom lives.  I love the way the afternoon light falls on these; I've taken some photos, but never as a dedicated photo session.  It occured to me, however, that I didn't have to go anywhere to paint these!  In fact, I could sit in a chair, in the shade, which clinched the deal.

The first is a quick study I did of one of the cirrus sets above the house; these are very fast-moving clouds, and by the time I'd blocked in my sky, the cloud itself was already well to the south.  But, it was good practice.  These were not the wispy cirrus clouds one often sees, but thick, robust clouds that blocked out most of the blue sky towards the horizon.

The second is of the mountains.  Not trying to create any sort of masterpiece here was good, because I couldn't be overly concerned about composition:  the foreground area from where I was sitting is my mom's backyard, an ugly chainlink fence, and neighbor's homes.  Not interesting to look at, let alone paint.  So, I just left it with the tree tops present in neighboring properties to account for the foreground.  I was also delighted that clusters of cumulus clouds were appearing in the distance, adding some contrast to the higher cirrus and the mountains themselves.  The mountains themselves are primarily volcanic in nature, with rough, red cliffs and rocky slopes covered in saguaro cacti, mesquite and other Sonoran desert vegetation.

I used a limited palette here; maybe 8 colors total.  Not much more was needed.

cirrus study - pastel, 5x7"

"East Towards Panther Peak"
pastel on sanded paper, 9x11"

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