alla prima


One last, little painting from Broad Creek, Tyaskin, Maryland.

Broad Creek, 5″ x 5″ en plein air oil painting

It amazes me that such depth of distance can be created on a 5″ x 5″ panel.  After several days of painting the marshes I was able to create the feeling of the bright light, the expansive space as well as the variations of texture and color in the various grasses with minimal brush strokes.  Before I return in October, I might warm up a few days prior to departure by painting quick studies from photographs.  As much as I don’t like working from photos, it’ll be worth it to get right down to business without wasting a few days on site getting accustomed to the marshes again.

Painting:  oil on gessoed birch panel, 5″ x 5″ en plein air. Painted over an underpainting wash of Permanent Mauve.

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Playing with different formats from the same vantage point …

Looking upriver from a small beach across the river  from Whitehaven, MD
6″ x 12″ en plein air oil painting on canvas

There is the long, narrow, horizontal view…

Same vantage point, 5″ x 5″ en plein air oil painting

And then there is the square composition variation.  My focus was on mixing both cool and warm variations of the green marsh grasses and phragmites.

Paintings: Top painting – oil on canvas, en plein air landscape, terra rosa underpainting. Bottom painting – oil on gessoed birch panel, en plein air landscape, terra rosa underpainting.

The late afternoon light on a clear day is awesome along the Wicomico River in Whitehaven, Maryland.

Afternoon Landscape, en plein air, Wicomico River, 5″ x 5″

Another little painting …..

Same spot……. after Monet the Mouse added his footprints

At the end of each day I lay the paintings on the the floor of Dave and Anita’s workshop.  Bad idea…. a very tiny mouse danced across five of the boards while the paintings were still wet.  I won’t make that mistake again.

Color Study Paintings:  Both are oil paintings, en plein air, painted on 5″ x 5″ gessoed wood panels with Terra Rosa underpainting.

Broad Creek won my heart.

Broad Creek along Muddy Hole Road, Tyaskin, MD 12″ x 16″ oil painting en plein air

This was the view of marsh grass I dreamed of painting as I drove down to Maryland last week.  Pretty typical, nothing surprising, just simply beautiful, a scene that invites the eye to follow the path of the twisting creek and explore the nooks and crannies of marsh grasses along the way.  It is stunningly beautiful in the early morning and the late afternoon.  I will return to this favorite spot in October.

Painting: oil painting, en plein air, painted over a wash of permanent mauve that acted as an underpainting.

This was, before the flood of rain, a dirt road winding through the woods along Muddy Hole Road in Tyaskin, Maryland.

Along Muddy Hole Road, Tyaskin, Maryland 12″ x 16″ oil painting, en plein air

I enjoyed the challenge of so many shapes and textures of grasses and trees.  I tried to play the cool greens against the warm greens.  A wash of Terra Rosa worked well as an underpainting color.  Fortunately, the bugs left me alone.  On rare occasion a car would drive by, slow down, then back up.  Two smiling faces would peer out the window at me and a pleasant conversation followed.  I was the rare bird from New Jersey who chose odd places to paint.

This, like most of the paintings I did on this trip, is a two hour painting.  I mixed most of my colors, comparing them carefully on my large palette, prior to applying the first brush stroke.  This is the first time I’ve experimented with pre-mixing colors.  I wouldn’t have been able to get this far in two hours if I hadn’t made sure the colors worked together on the palette first.  When painting alla prima, it is difficult to correct colors on the canvas without getting muddy.

An amazing five days of plein air painting near the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland!  I arrived a bit late for appetizers, but not too late for dinner.

Henriette and Dave playing Nine Ball after dinner

My visit began with a dinner party, Chris and Henriette, the lovely owners of the Organic Herb farm, Habenera Farm, just outside of Whitehaven were already sipping gin and tonics when I arrived.

Next morning, after a quick tour of possible locations to paint, I set out to claim my space from the massive population of Maryland bugs.

Muddy Hole Creek, Ellis Bay Wildlife Management Area

Muddy Hole Road turned out to be a goldmine of possibilities.  My first stop at the far end of Muddy Hole Creek, part of the Ellis Bay Wildlife Management Area.

En Plein Air, oil painting, 12″ x 16″, April 27, 2012

My Richard Schmid Color Charts were indispensable.  My intent was to capture the essence of the brilliant light upon the marshes.  I wanted clean color.  More later….. I painted four painting each day.  Too much mail to catch up on to post any more at the moment.

I heard those words this morning in response to the question “Are you married or have a girl friend these days?”  The tall, middle-aged man responded, “I have two cars and a parachute.”  The tall, thin woman, a bit taken aback replied, “Oh…. guess you haven’t found the right one yet.”  “Guess not.” That was the end of the conversation.  When it doesn’t work, just keep moving on.

And so it is with paintings, too.

A bit of touch-up with a palette knife

I wasn’t pleased with the painting I did in the arboretum on Friday.  In the spirit of moving on I decided to  play with a palette knife in an attempt to breathe some life into the square, wooden panel.  Having read excerpts from Richard Schmid’s Alla Prima the last two nights before bed, I concentrated more on edges, values and overall pattern.  Thank you, Richard Schmid.  It’s not great, but it definitely is starting to breathe.

Hunterdon Arboretum Cherry Blossom Tree

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