Central California Plein Air sunset creek painting

Twilight Creek
9 x 12 plein air painting
oil on canvas

Because the light was certainly fleeting, this is my entry for illustration Friday’s theme: fleeting

Not too long ago (pre-crash) when my husband and I were on a weekend trip to see the wildflowers north of us, we saw this view at the end of a long day. Although I was tired from painting and taking pictures of the ephemeral bloom, I saw a ribbon of light by the side of the road and felt that I just “had” to paint it. “Stop the car!” I yelped to my husband. (he’s used to this – he knows what it means.) The sun was already down and I knew that I had 20 minutes, at best, before I wouldn’t be able to see the colors on my palette. (And I don’t have a hat light yet – that’s on my wish list for nocturne painting.)

So while I squeezed out some fresh paint on my palette, my love set up the Yarka on uneven ground and I started blocking in the big color shapes, aware that it was changing by the minute. When I got home I refined some of the tree shapes and the river curves, and touched up some of the canvas areas where the paint was too thin. Overall, I am very satisfied with this field study, which I might use as a reference for a larger painting, as I often do.

Plein air paintings tend to be very loose – and those that happen under changing light conditions are the loosest of all. It’s one thing to do a painting with three hours of pretty even mid-day sun … but it’s another to try to paint a scene post-sunset. But I think that’s part of the charm of it – it’s a very quick impression – colors mixed on the fly and laid down (for better or worse) with decisiveness. It’s like trying to catch “lightning in a bottle,” to quote Leo Durocher. Pretty near impossible, but fun to try.


  1. Margaret Caton
    April 8, 2009

    And a saint with a very talented partner! I love the way you have captured that dusky twilight feeling. This has the look and the feel.

  2. vickylw
    April 9, 2009

    Sheer perfection at its best!

  3. Wendee
    April 9, 2009

    Gorgeous, Karen!

  4. annie
    April 9, 2009

    I agree with the others. He must be perfect partner. And you have caught the feel of twilight, though I cannot imagine how you did it. My favorite sketches and paintings are those done as quick impressions.

  5. Linda T
    April 9, 2009

    Wow, this is wonderful!!

  6. Aveen
    April 9, 2009

    How lovely to have a husband who understands! Beautiful painting. That sky is just amazing.

  7. winna
    April 9, 2009

    You deserve some sort of award or to be knighted or something!

  8. Karen
    April 9, 2009

    Thank you everyone.

    Yes, my husband is a real gem. He’s the prince who deserves to be knighted!

    Not only does he accompany me on my painting trips but he cheerfully helps me set up the umbrella and schlep the gear and insist I keep hydrated (I have a tendency to forget to drink water and regret it later) and go get lunch, and help me set up booths at shows and I could go on and on.

    I did pay it ahead with him, though, for all our busiest documentary making years that I carried spare batteries and film camera magazines, light stands, worked the boom mike, toted sandbags, grabbed equipment cases off the baggage carousel at the airport, and so forth. So we have a very mutual relationship. It’s never been his career or my career it’s always been our career and we both do whatever it takes to make it work. 35 married years and many more to come …

  9. Sue A
    April 13, 2009

    Awesome, awesome, awesome – the painting and your husband. :)

    Won’t a hat lamp attract annoying instects?

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