Central California Plein Air sunset creek painting
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.