Plein Air Plan | 5 tips for better outdoor painting
June 27, 2009, 7:47 pm
Filed under: Plein Air | Tags: , ,

I just finished a fantastic plein air painting workshop sponsored by The Atelierhere in Minneapolis. The workshop was taught by plein air artist, Brian Stewart. Go ahead. Click on over to his site and take a look at his work, I can wait. Welcome back.

I made a conscious effort that I was going to use this as an opportunity to learn as much as I could about  another painter’s process for plein air painting.

Here are my top 5 take-aways from Brian’s workshop

  1. Location, location, location. Choosing what to paint is just as, if not more important than how you paint it.
  2. Compose it well. How you place that well chosen subject on the canvas is critical to the emotion that a viewer feels or doesn’t feel when they look at your painting.
  3. Draw it out. Take the time to draw out you painting. This should be done simply, but as accurately as possible. Use a few lines, no more than 7 or 8 if possible. Starting with nothing or even worse, starting with something sloppy on the canvas just means that you will be spending your time later fixing what you just put down.
  4. Values rule. Once the drawing has been established, and you are starting out on a painting, there is nothing more important than getting your values right. “How light is the shadow side of this shape next to the light side of this other shape?” Move from shape to shape and ask yourself the question.
  5. Explain yourself. There reaches a point in a plein air painting where you need to stop simply putting down paint, and start describing the feeling of what you see in front of you. This is done through edges, brush strokes, color/temperature variations, and value shifts. “How can I manipulate the paint to give the view a better idea of what I experienced?”

What struck me as I was painting, is how these ideas could be applied to almost any representation painting done from life. There is nothing radical. No secret colors recipes for mixing up the prefect colors to use for painting the shadow side of oak trees. Just slow down, compare the parts to the whole, and paint what you see.


Plein Air Sunflowers | backyard still life painting
June 14, 2009, 3:59 pm
Filed under: floral | Tags: , , , ,

Plein Air Sunflowers, 9x12", oil on linen, by Jeffrey Smith

Plein Air Sunflowers, 9x12", oil on linen, by Jeffrey Smith

Plein Air Sunflowers
Please click here to check out Jeffrey Smith Art on Etsy for purchase information.

I painted the above still life on a sunny Sunday in my back yard. I love the idea of taking a still life outside. The colors are so much more intense, and I think flowers look fantastic when they are lit form above. I also think there is something to be said for the shifting light that you get when you paint a still life set up in the full sun; it really forces you to make decisions quickly to capture what you see before it’s changes.

Birch Clump | Backyard plein air painting of birch trees
May 23, 2009, 10:22 am
Filed under: landscape, Plein Air, tree | Tags: , ,
Birch Clump, 6x6, oil on panel by Jeffrey Smith

Birch Clump, 6x6, oil on panel by Jeffrey Smith

What a beautiful day for plein air painting in Minnesota!   At 74 degrees a nice gentle breeze I don’t think you could ask for anything more.  Armed with this sunny disposition, I grabbed my pochade box and headed out side to paint.  I got in about 6 hours of painting time, and walked away with 3 little paintings.

The image above the clump of birch trees from the neighbors front lawn.  I painting the same group of trees a few weeks ago.  What I love about revisiting a subject, especially at this time of year, is taking the time to see how things have changed.  In what seems like no time at all, a ring of hostas has circled the birch trees.  The leaves on the trees themselves have come out, adding a wonderfully intense green note against the blues of the spruce tree behind  them.

Peonies and Pewter Vase | Peony floral still life painting
May 17, 2009, 8:55 pm
Filed under: floral, Still life | Tags: , , ,
Peonies and Pewter Vase, 6x12" oil on panel, by Jeffrey Smith

Peonies and Pewter Vase, 6x12" oil on panel, by Jeffrey Smith

I think peonies are one of the greatest things about spring.  Every year, I look forward to painting these big, beautiful flowers.  The painting above is my first of the season. 

 I moved into a new house in February.  The cool thing, has been watching the gardens as plants are comingup.  You can imagine my delight when I discovered that we have 7 peony bushes right in our own backyard.  I guarantee that I will be out back with my pochade box and paints in hands during the coming weeks.

I started this floral painting, by toning the homemade painting panel with transparent red oxide.  I then built up the paint surface using only the other transparent pigments on my palette; alizarine crimson, Prussian green, and ultramarine blue.   Once the shadows where layed in, I added back the opaque pigments to my palette of  colors to work the middle tone and light areas.

Fallen Tree and the Forest Floor|Plein Air Painting in the Park
May 8, 2009, 4:56 pm
Filed under: landscape, Plein Air | Tags: , , ,
Fallen Tree, 6x8", oil on linen panel, by Jeffrey Smith

Fallen Tree, 6x8", oil on linen panel, by Jeffrey Smith

The landscape painting above was painted in a park just over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.  One of the great things about the neighborhood that we live in now, is the closeness to the Mississippi River.  I thing there is something really great about being able to see a scene like this, and know that I’m about 2 miles away from a major downtown area.

We had some very unusual weather the morning that I created this little painting.  It started off raining, then the sun came out. Then rain and sun, both at the same time.  It finally looked like things were going to clear up, or at least stop raining.  I made my move.  With pochade box in hand, I made my way down to the  river.  I came across this spot, and set up my paints.   About an hour, I heard what I thought was a loud truck, or a train.  It turns out, it was thunder.  I didn’t realize that until I got smacked in the face with the first of many huge drops of rain.  I quickly tucked my painting into it’s carrier, and made my way for the car.

Looking back on it, I figure that getting rained on while painting just ups my credibility as a plein air painter.

Park Lawn Pochade
May 3, 2009, 3:41 pm
Filed under: Painting, Plein Air, supplies | Tags: , , , ,
Park Lawn Pochade, 6x8", oil on linen panel, by Jeffrey Smith

Park Lawn Pochade, 6x8", oil on linen panel, by Jeffrey Smith

Spring has finally arrived here in Minnesota! I love painting outdoors this time of year.  The branches of the trees are still very visible, with just enough of the yellow-green foliage of spring to soften the edges. It’s like being able to see the support skeleton underneath.

For my 30th birthday, last Sunday, my partner gave me the gift of a new pochade box.  I couldn’t be happier with it.  It’s something that I’ve wanted for a number of years.  This year, I finally put in the time, and did some reading online.  There are  lot of options out there, and I must say that I love mine.  I have the Blackfootbox from Alla Prima Pochade.  My box is very well constructed and very thoughtfully designed.  Who knew that you could fit almost everything you need to complete a painting in one little box?

pochade box set up

pochade box set up

Flowers and Pears, final
April 28, 2009, 6:52 pm
Filed under: floral, Painting, Still life | Tags: , , , ,
Flowers an Pears, 16x16", oil on panel, by Jeffrey Smith

Flowers an Pears, 16x16", oil on panel, by Jeffrey Smith

Flowers and Pearsis done! I am quite happy with how this painting ended up.  From a distance, this still life feels very tight, very detailed. When you get close to it, there is a lot of broken color, strokes of colors placed next to one another on the surface and left unmixed allowing your eye to do the mixing.

My goal was to push some of the visual textures.  I really had a wonderful time working the rough wood of the table against the smooth finish of the glazed and glass objects. 

Flowers and Pears, detail

Flowers and Pears, detail