Tag Archives: plein air

Plein Air Painting Of Trees…And More Trees!

 

So much for getting this post out by the end of August! What can I say – the summertime craziness has discombobulated me.

The Alaska cruise with my family was lovely (bar getting bitten by some insect which blew up my foot into an ugly puff ball). It was so wonderful to get together with my siblings, their mates, and my parents. Sad when it was over. But then we had the pleasure of my sister and her partner visiting for a fun couple of days. Now, I’m finally getting back into the swing of things. 

Right, what’s on tap today. Well I thought I’d share the progression of a plein air painting of trees that I have just entered into the Sidney Fine Art Show (fingers crossed).

My Mum, Dad and I went out painting in July. Unusual for us, this was an afternoon outing (rather than a morning one). Since we would start losing light, we didn’t want to spend a whole heap of time looking for a spot so we settled on parking at the Long Harbour ferry terminal. There was water, trees, and buildings to choose from. Even so, I had a hard time committing to a scene. And then I turned around and saw this:

 

Trees and more trees near Long Harbour ferry terminal.

Trees and more trees near Long Harbour ferry terminal. I was attracted by the couple of arbutus trees and the white trunks of some other trees standing out from all the green. A challenge that’s for sure!

 

My drawing in charcoal on Wallis paper. Only the main shapes are indicated.

My drawing in charcoal on Wallis paper. Only the main shapes are indicated. (Apologies for the shadows – I couldn’t get set up completely in the shade.)

 

I've indicated the main shapes in pastel - primarily light and dark. You can see I also chose to show the temperature of the shapes - warm arbutus and light areas, cool shadow areas

I’ve indicated the main shapes in pastel – primarily light and dark. You can see I also chose to show the temperature of the shapes – warm arbutus and light areas, cool shadow areas.

 

Just after I have rubbed the whole thing with paper towel. This gives me an 'underpainting' to work on, one that has no wage of paper showing through.

Just after I have rubbed the whole thing with paper towel. This gives me an ‘underpainting’ to work on, one that has no white of paper showing through.

 

Because it was late in the day, the sun slipped behind a hill and then my strong sunlight disappeared leaving me with a very flat scene. Luckily, I had put in my values and so continued, using the underpainting as my guide.

Because it was late in the day, the sun slipped behind a hill leaving me with a very flat scene. Luckily, I had put in my values and so continued, using the ‘underpainting’ as my guide.

 

Here I have built up the forms. Much of it is lines of colour in the correct value.

Here I have built up the forms. Much of it is lines of colour in the correct value. (Again, apologies for the dappled light.)

 

Some darker areas introduced

Some darker areas of blue introduced.

 

Gail Sibley, "Trees And More Trees," pastel on Wallis paper, 12 x 9 in

And here’s the finale of my plein air painting of trees…. Gail Sibley, “Trees And More Trees,” pastel on Wallis paper, 12 x 9 in

 

The selection of pastels I used - all from Unison's starter kit except the one pink/mauve which is from Great American's starter box.

The selection of pastels I used – all from Unison’s starter kit except the one pink/mauve which is from Great American’s starter box.

 

My Mum and Dad painting out with me. (My Dad's down by the signpost.)

My Mum and Dad painting out with me. (My Dad’s down by the signpost.)

 

This painting was unusual for me. For one thing, there aren’t many layers. And for another, it painted itself like an abstract. I was in wonder at the end of the hour and a half. How did that happen??

 

Which reminds me to remind you that I am offering a pastel workshop, “Moving Towards Abstraction,” on Salt Spring Island on the last September weekend. You can read more about it here.  Please tell anyone you know who may be interested!

 

I do hope the progression of my plein air painting of trees was helpful. Did I leave something out? Let me know!!

 

Until next time,

~ Gail


PS. I know it’s not a pastel painting but I could not NOT tell you my good news!! I was awarded the GRAND PRIZE for “Perchance To Fly” in the Federation of Canadian Artist’s show Painting On The Edge – an open international juried show. This prestigious exhibition is difficult to get into and I was thrilled to have accomplished that but to win the top prize?? Unbelievable, unimaginable, unthinkable. But here it is, I won!!

Click here to go to the FCA’s webpage and see my work. And click here if you would like to see the painting’s progression.

Gail Sibley, "Perchance To Fly," mixed media, 16 x 16 in

Gail Sibley, “Perchance To Fly,” mixed media, 16 x 16 in

Plein air pastelling in Mexico with a mucho limited palette

 

In February, I had the pleasure of being in La Manzanilla, Mexico for a week of tango workshops (yay!) followed by a week of relaxing and painting (more yay!). The paintings were done mostly en plein air and over the next few weeks, I’ll share two or three of those pieces.

The one I’m going to show you this time was an experiment. As many of you know, I generally paint with a limited palette. I decided to try using my very small set of Schminke pastels – only 11 colours to choose from so, in this case, the choice of pastels was severely limited. Eek!

 

The set of 11 Schminke pastels

The set of 11 Schminke pastels

 

I can’t decide whether the pastel is finished and if it isn’t, should I just keep working on it with the Schminke limited selection or should I bring in some other colours. At the end of this post, I’d like you to help me out with your thoughts.

 

So let’s take a look. (These photos were taken on site with my iPhone so, sorry, they aren’t the greatest.)

1. The beginnings of my plein air piece - the charcoal indication on Wallis paper of the beach scene

1. The beginnings of my plein air pastel – the charcoal indication on 9 x 12 in Wallis paper of the beach scene

 

2. Getting some colour down. Remember, I have so few colours to choose from.

2. Getting some colour down. Remember, I have very few colours to choose from!

 

3. Okay, now I have the paper covered, now what??? At this point, I am seriously wondering whether I can do this! Shall I just give up the plein air experiment?

3. Okay, I have the paper covered, now what??? At this point, I am seriously wondering whether I can do this. Shall I continue or just throw in the towel on this plein air experiment right now? As you can see, I decided to continue.

 

4. Started layering. You can see me bringing white into the sky. What else can a girl do to lighten it up??

4. I’ve started layering. You can see me bringing white into the sky. What else can a girl do to lighten it up??

 

5. So I got white all over the sky then it was too light, tooooo white, so layering over blue. I did this a couple of times with a bit of gnashing of teeth. Argh.

5. I covered the blue in the sky with white then it was too light, tooooo white, so layered over some more blue pastel. I did this a couple of times with a bit of gnashing of teeth. Argh.

 

6. Getting close to the end. The sky a bit of a disappointment but with my limited choice i.e. white and yellow are the only light options, that's what I have.

6. Getting close to the end. The sky is a bit of a disappointment but with my limited choice (i.e. white and yellow are the only light options), that’s what I have.

 

7. Before leaving my painting spot, I decided that because there is such an expanse of sky that I could lesson it by stretching a couple of palm fronds into the picture. I also reinserted a hill in the background. By now I'm hungry and I go in search of some victuals :-)

7. Before leaving my plein air painting spot, I decide that because there is such an expanse of sky that I could lessen it by stretching a couple of palm fronds across the sky. I also reinsert a hill in the background. By now I’m hungry and ready to go off in search of some victuals.

 

Once home in Canada, I am wondering if a cropped version of the plein air piece will work better. What do you think?

 

8. The cropped version.

8. The cropped version.

 

So that’s it. It was a delightful day to be out painting. I sat under a coconut tree and listened to the waves and the chatter of birds and people as they passed by. Nothing beats being outside, en plein air, working on a piece of art. When you look at your work weeks later, you re-live the scene and everything that you experienced. Wonderful.

 

Okay, time to get your feedback. Is it finished and if not, what suggestions? I also need a title….

 

I do look forward hearing from you!!

Until next time,

~ Gail

PS. Here’s the scene I painted

Photo of beach at La Manzanilla at midday

Beach at La Manzanilla at midday

Painting en plein air, you can find subject matter anywhere!

 

When we’re on location I hear students complain that there is nothing to paint, that they want to move to another location. There is always something to paint – you may just have to look a little harder.

Take for instance this day I was out – it was overcast and I had limited time. It didn’t seem like there was much to paint but then this scene captured my attention:

 

The scene I painted

The scene I painted

The first thing I do before I settle in is to make a thumbnail sketch (as you all know!!) to check for value masses and balance:

 

Thumbnail with three values

Thumbnail with three values

When I am okay with that, I make a quick drawing in charcoal on my paper, in this case, Wallis Belgium Mist:

 

Charcoal sketch on Wallis paper

Charcoal sketch on Wallis paper

It’s time to get started. I pick three pastels in three values (light, medium, dark) and apply lightly and quickly:

 

The first three values are down

The first three values are down. You can see the design clearly now

Now I can begin adding a second layer:

 

The beginning of the build up of pastel layers

The beginning of the build up of pastel layers. I’m feeling my way.

And now I get down to work in earnest:

 

The image begins to emerge

The image begins to emerge. I am interested in capturing all the colours I see.

There are a group of dead branches emerging from the foliage. A tricky subject that needs to be included. How to do them? I just start in and see what happens:

 

More detail added including the grouping of dead branches

More detail added including the grouping of dead branches.

I then add more details and more highlights. Eventually I realize I am beginning to get picky so it was time to stop. Before I did so, I added the small tree on the left feeling the design required a vertical at that point:

 

The final touches before I head home

The final touches before I head home.

Back in the studio a few days later, after considering the pastel, I make a few more tweaks (on the fence for example) and then consider it done!

 

"Trees on Sharpe Rd," pastel on Wallis paper, 9 x 12 in

“Trees on Sharpe Rd,” pastel on Wallis paper, 9 x 12 in

And just for fun, here are a couple more images – one of me at my easel and the other of the pastels I used:

 

At my easel on location at Sharpe Rd

At my easel on location at Sharpe Rd.

Pastels used - quite a few for me!

Sennelier pastels I used – quite a few for me!

Do you have questions about the creation of this pastel? Please ask!

Thanks for being here,

~ Gail