Thursday, December 1, 2011

A final plein air...for a bit - pastel, 12x12

Late Fall Shoreline
12x12" - pastel on dark brown cardstock
© S.Johnson

Yesterday was probably the last "warm" day we are going to have around here for a bit, possibly months, and while the landscape is probably at its least attractive [in my opinion, anyway] in the period after the fall color has gone and before the snow works its magic on the land, I wasn't finding much inspiration to paint on location.

But, the urge to get outside and take advantage of the gift of a beautiful, mild day made me think of what would be interesting to paint.  Answer, of course:  the river.  New location for this piece, and one I'll most certainly revisit.  One of the standout features were the reddish bare branches of the shoreline willows.  I actually think they look more interesting and attractive without leaves - quite possibly the only tree/shrub that I could say that about.  Makes for a sweet compliment with the river, too.

I had to work quickly, though:  a hogback ridge is just across the river, and at this time of the year, the sun drops behind it early.  No sun = immediate drop in temperature = painting is over for me.  So, I didn't quite finish it on location, and despite having made some compositional adjustments to the foreground rocks on location, when I got home, I didn't care for them.  The closest rock had the misfortune of looking like...a hamburger.  Partially due to its shape and partially due to me being so focused on capturing its color variations, which were striped horizontally.  I hadn't given it much thought while I was painting that it might not translate so well in the painting.   And, there was some major funk happening with some of the colors I used in those rocks.

So, I messed around with it a bit this afternoon, fully expecting I might ruin it, which happens.  Then, suddenly, things seemed to come together and I decided that I liked it, so I took this photo:

However, upon looking at the photo on my computer, I saw two things, albeit minor, that immediately bugged me, and I knew I had to fix them.   Do you see them?  Actually, others will possibly notice different things (hey, if I ever create the perfect painting, my career as an artist will be over), but for whatever reason, these jumped out as very bothersome.  Even if you don't notice specifics, I hope you'll at least agree that the first image is better.

I mention this because I think it's a good example of how looking at a photo of the painting can be a good editing/critiquing tool.  As much as I try to catch these things before I declare the painting to be finished, sometimes I just miss them.  But, they often show up in the photo.  I still haven't figured out exactly how this phenomenon works, but I am grateful for it!


  1. Sonya, this is so pretty! I love the feeling of distance that you capture so well. The water, rocks and reflections are beautiful, too. I'm glad you were able to enjoy a nice day outdoors before the winter cold is here to stay. Great work!

  2. Interesting post and beautiful painting. I think both images works. Love the colorful contrast.

  3. Darla, thanks so much. It was so nice to get out and squeeze in another outdoor painting session before winter truly sets in. BTW, I wish we could share landscape and studio painting sessions together - I'd love to paint still lifes as well as you do :)!

    Thanks Sheri - I loved that I could use compliments in this painting.

    LeAnn, thank you.

  4. I think it is the same effect as looking at a painting in the mirror, or upside down. The brain is fooled into not recognizing the shapes and the mistakes jump out at us. Having said that, I don't see the issues you are talking about. It's a lovely work.

  5. Hi Carol - agreed. Clearly something like this is happening, although how it works when you are looking at the same image has always puzzled me. Perhaps because now it is a different media and scale?

    Thanks for your comments about the painting. One of the areas in question was the tiny blue area in the upper left corner: my eye kept going to it. A couple of swipes with another color solved that problem.

  6. This piece is just beautiful Sonya! I love the colors. And I agree with you about the landscape being at the least attractive in that transition stage. :)

    I have noticed the same thing when I take a photo of my paintings, but I usually don't notice it until I post it for all to see! D-oh!

  7. Thanks, Crystal - this was a fun palette to use with no greens ;). I've had the same thing happen, many times, where I don't notice things to change until it's up there on my blog...D'oh! is right!

  8. I love your water scenes Sonya. The texture of the water is always lovely and I like the reflections of the grasses and trees. This is no exception. You inspire me to at least sit out and try to paint our lake next year. Fall is gone here too although I hope the snow holds off for a while.

  9. Thanks so much, Ruth. It really wasn't until I started painting water on location that I discovered how much I enjoyed it. I do hope you'll go and paint by your lake next year - how wonderful to have that! We got snow here recently, and I'd sort of forgotten how much it transforms the landscape.


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