Category Archives: plein air painting

Quick Draw and Plein Air Painting Event at Jasper, Indiana

I have only been into retirement about three weeks but, frankly, I have been sooooo busy!  I know, all retirees say that.  But it’s true.  It rained nearly the entire first week with some epic flooding in this area.  I spent much of that week just organizing the stuff I brought home from my office (too much after 17 years).  And making lists.  I’m a list maker and have always been one.  Just love checking off those items.

After awhile, however, I reminded myself that I didn’t want my entire retirement to be one big To Do list.  I want to have some fun!

So I signed up for the Quick Draw and Plein Air Painting event sponsored by Jasper Community Arts.  I have never been able to participate before since I am an employee so I was grateful for the opportunity this year.  It is also co-sponsored by another organization I belong to, RunawayArtists.com.

This two-day event was on the Friday and Saturday before Mother’s Day.  Friday predictions were for more rain so I tried to think of somewhere sheltered to paint.  I asked my friends at Green Thumb Nursery if they would mind if I painted there and they were delighted so that is where I began.  It was a very pleasant morning with the rain pattering on the roof and painting among all the flowers.  The most difficult part was to find the right corner where I wouldn’t be in the way of all the Mother’s Day shoppers. The angle wasn’t the most desirable as I couldn’t back up enough to gauge the proper perspective, but a lovely morning, all in all.

Plein Air Painting at Green Thumb on a rainy day. Kit Miracle

Plein Air Painting at the garden center. Oil on canvas, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

Watching all the shoppers come in for holiday, I thought that I might stick with the flowers theme and went to the other side of town to paint in the Walmart garden center.  It was an awesome display of flowers!  Again, I found an out of the way spot to paint.  I was particularly enamored with the bright colors of the kayaks propped against the building contrasting with all the flowers.  You have to develop a pretty thick skin to paint in such a public and well-trafficked space but it didn’t bother me at all.  No one from the store came up and asked what I was doing but I did have a few customers asked if I worked there.  It must have been my painting apron.  Ha ha.

Painting at the garden center at Walmart on the day before Mother’s Day. Kit Miracle

The Garden Center at Walmart. Oil on canvas, 12 x 12, Kit Miracle

Finally, at the end of the afternoon, I participated in the Quick  Draw event at the Schaeffer Barn in downtown Jasper.  This old log barn was moved here and restored and has a beautiful garden space.  Always something interesting to paint.  This is a timed event and the artists only have two hours to complete a painting.  I came in third.  Yay!

Painting at the Schaeffer Barn, Quick Draw event.

Schaeffer Barn Quick Draw event. Oil on canvas, 12 x 12. Kit Miracle Third place winner!

The second day of the event I worked in the morning as a volunteer.  Later in the day I did some more plein air painting at a different garden center but nothing came of it.  Sometimes it works that way. I must have used all my creative juices the day before.  But that is alright.  I met some very nice artists and had a good time in the fresh air.

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Winter vacation in the Florida Keys

My husband and I were able to take our first winter vacation in a very long time.  We chose the Florida Keys which we hadn’t visited for over 30 years.  Oh, it was so nice to bask in the warmth of the sun.

Plein air painting of Among the Mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

Plein air painting of Among the Mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

Among the mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

Among the mangroves, Florida Keys 2017

One of the nicest parts about the Keys is that there are so many places that visitors can pull over to fish…or in my case…paint.  The Pentalic Aqua Journal (5 x 8) is perfect for painting broad landscapes. In the first painting, I was sitting in the shade while trying to capture the feel of being tucked away in the mangroves.  The photos don’t do justice to the amazing aqua waters but it’s a nice memory.

Plien Air Painting from the park in the middle of Marathon, Florida Keys

Plien Air Painting from the park in the middle of Marathon, Florida Keys

Photo from the location I painted from the Marathon park.

Photo from the location I painted from the Marathon park.

The second painting was from a small park in the heart of Marathon.  I liked the way the house across the inlet was framed by the pine tree.  I took liberties to emphasize the house, actually more than I could really see it.  Oh, well, that’s what artists do.  Enjoy

Sage Cottage

Sage Cottage, Adairsville GA  Watercolor / pen and ink, Kit Miracle

Sage Cottage, Adairsville GA Watercolor / pen and ink, Kit Miracle

We were in Georgia last month for a wedding at the Barnsley Estate. We stayed at a wonderful bed and breakfast a few miles away called the Sage Cottage.  Owners, Jim and Sharon Southerland, were such gracious hosts and made us feel welcome in every way.  The house is actually quite large with really beautiful grounds. Another wedding party had taken over most of the remainder of the rooms.  There was plenty of space to roam so I decided to use my time to make this watercolor / pen and ink sketch of the main house.  It was difficult to choose a view as the grounds were laid out so well, with hidden nooks, statuary, and gardens.

This was painted in a Pentalic Aqua Journal which has really thick pages, almost like cardboard.  I use a couple of clips to hold the pages open but otherwise, there is no buckling from watermedia.  I only wished later that I had used a larger sheet of paper, maybe an 11 x 14.  This is 5 x 16 (5 x 8 landscape notebook).

Plein Air Painting at Patoka Lake

First day of vacation for me…finally.  So does a plein air painter sleep in?  Heck, no!  Up at the crack of dawn to paint at the beautiful Lake Patoka which is just right down the road from me.  Fortunately the oppressive heat wave is over for a while so the morning could not have been more pleasant.

Lake Patoka has 8,800 surface acres set in a 29,000 acre state recreation area.  So peaceful and not crowded.  I have been scouting places to paint and selected this site on the eastern side of the lake.  No one was there except me and the cormorants fishing for their breakfasts.

Cormorants fishing for breakfast at Lake Patoka

Cormorants fishing for breakfast at Lake Patoka

The first painting was facing north with the strafing light and shadows from the right.

Patoka Lake, first site

Patoka Lake, first site

First plein air painting at Patoka Lake.  11x14, watercolor, Kit Miracle

First plein air painting at Patoka Lake. 11×14, watercolor, Kit Miracle

The second painting was facing west with the sun at my back.

Second site at Patoka Lake

Second site at Patoka Lake

Second plein air painting at Patoka Lake, 11 x 14, watercolor, Kit Miracle

Second plein air painting at Patoka Lake, 11 x 14, watercolor, Kit Miracle

Plein air painting, old buildings

Hoosier Desk Building, Final. Watercolor / pen and ink, 11 x 14, Kit Miracle

Hoosier Desk Building, Final. Watercolor / pen and ink, 11 x 14, Kit Miracle

Today I decided to paint this old factory building.  It has undergone so many renovations and additions over the years.  Very interesting from many aspects.  I selected this broad scene (and it really could have been a panorama if I had brought larger paper with me).  I may end up doing some close-ups of the interesting architecture over the coming months.

Today’s challenge was to work with some speed in order to beat the changing position of the sun and the shadows.  This is why so many artists like to paint on cloudy days.  I don’t so I just have to paint quickly or remember where I want to keep the sun and shadows even as they move.

Plein air painting, Hoosier Desk Building. Beginning

Plein air painting, Hoosier Desk Building. Beginning

Sometimes you’ve just got to paint

When pigs fly. Watercolor / pen and ink, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

When pigs fly. Watercolor / pen and ink, 12 x 16. Kit Miracle

We’ve all heard the  admonishment that you need to create art every day.  But…life gets in the way.  Jobs, family, gardening, etc.  Sometimes I find all my  have-t0′s overwhelming my urge to create.  This weekend I just had to paint.

Yesterday, before I could get overly involved in the rest of the home tasks, I trucked my painting gear out to the front yard and painted this flowerbed which has been calling me for weeks.  It seems to be a symphony of purples, mauves, and yellows this time of year.  The heat was oppressive.  The humidity was drenching.  But I had a great time.

For you gardeners out there, you’re looking at purple cone flower, bee balm, weigela, daylilies, lambs ear, and a giant yucca.  The flying pig is a bit difficult to make out but he’s one of my favorite yard statues, as he bounces on his spring in a strong breeze.  Symbol of not-quite-lost causes.

Giant Moth Mullen Watercolor/ pen and ink, 16 x 12 Kit Miracle

Giant Moth Mullen Watercolor/ pen and ink, 16 x 12 Kit Miracle

Then, this morning I decided to capture this weed, Giant Moth Mullen.  It is already 5 feet tall and will probably top 6 or 7 feet.  It has fuzzy leaves, similar to lambs ear and the most interesting curly-type leaves and stalk.  It will eventually have a tall spike of yellow flowers which in turn, will produce seeds that the goldfinches love.  Probably how it came to be growing near my cellar door.  Majestic!

BTW, I was inspired by a blog challenge by James Gurney, who held a recent competition of people who paint weeds.  This painting is not entered as it is past date, but I thought it was a perfect subject.

Plein Air Painting In the Neighborhood

Mentor Road, Birdseye, Indiana, oil on canvas, 18 x 24, Kit Miracle

Mentor Road, Birdseye, Indiana, oil on canvas, 18 x 24, Kit Miracle

Writers are often advised to paint what you know.  I believe that this advice holds true for artists, too.  You know your own neighborhood best, the most attractive features, the back roads, and the best seasons to view the scenery.

My neighborhood, as the title of my blog implies, is a rural one.  This time of year the farmers are baling hay.  Those big round bales often remind me of the wonderful haystacks of Monet, and their rotund forms litter the fields until they’re tidied away in neat rows.

A couple of days ago, I rode around the neighborhood looking for likely painting spots, especially with an eye to catching some hay bales still lying in the field. Other criteria for me are where can I park and will I need permission to go onto someone’s property.  Most people are very gracious about allowing  artists to venture on their land but it’s always best to ask if you can.

Today I returned to a likely spot.  Actually, I had intended to climb into the field but found that I liked the view from the road better, especially with the roof of a house showing which added an interesting focal point.  The painting went well and I came away with a pretty complete piece.  Some challenges were the wind so I had to improvise a weight for my portable easel.  Also, the flies were ferociously biting me.  Glad to have brought bug spray which is always in my travel bag.  And finally, I am positive that the manure spreader which passed my position three times, intentionally spilled a bit on the curve on which I was painting. Really!

Anyway, here is the final product and a few preliminaries.  It was painted on a toned canvas, 18 x 24, and took about two hours.  Feedback is always appreciated.

Hay bales, one potential view

Hay bales, one potential view

Final view chosen.  Loved the overhanging tree, the shadows and the contrasts.

Final view chosen. Loved the overhanging tree, the shadows and the contrasts.

First laying in on toned canvas

First laying in on toned canvas

Final painting with scene behind.  About two hours.

Final painting with scene behind. About two hours.

Improvised weight to hold my portable easel in the breeze.

Improvised weight to hold my portable easel in the breeze.

Car studio.  Easier than packing everything and a lot roomier.

Car studio. Easier than packing everything and a lot roomier.

Using red gel to determine values in your paintings

Sometimes using a piece of red gel (acetate)-  as in lighting gel – will help you see the values of your subject and painting better.  This seems to work best with landscapes as the red gel counteracts the greens, just leaving the values.

I’m not quite sure where I came across this idea but I always carry a piece of red gel with me.  You can acquire leftover pieces from most theaters in your area, even some universities. They use the gels to color the lights for the stage. Or you can buy it new on Amazon.com or at a theatrical supply store.  If you use a viewfinder, there is even a really neat gismo which you can buy at www.pictureperfectviewfinder.com which has the red gel built in, along with some value markers and different size openings for standard painting sizes.  Try it.  You’ll like it.

Piece of red gel, about 4 x 6

Piece of red gel, about 4 x 6

Folded over Picture Perfect View Finder showing the red gel and composition grids.

Folded over Picture Perfect View Finder showing the red gel and composition grids.

The Picture Perfect View Finder

The Picture Perfect View Finder

Back side of the viewfinder

Back side of the viewfinder

Landscape without the gel

Landscape without the gel

Landscape with red gel showing values

Landscape with red gel showing values

Using the red gel to look at computer photo

Using the red gel to look at computer photo

A landscape painting with the red gel

A landscape painting with the red gel

A landscape final version showing the values in the photo on the computer

A landscape final version showing the values in the photo on the computer

Plein air painting with acrylics

First of all I will admit that I am not an expert in acrylic painting.  Yes, I’ve painted watercolors for over 30 years and have tackled oil painting for about ten years.  But I’m pretty new to acrylic painting.

I got into acrylics painting artwork last year when I had some commissions which needed to be completed quickly.  Mainly I was looking for something durable but which dries more quickly than oils.  And after my last foray at a multi-day plein air event last month where I seemed to get Titanium white all over everything, I thought acrylics might be a good idea to try.

I have a beautiful little pochade box which I purchased last year but have never used so this was to be my designated acrylic box.  (For now.)  I loaded it up yesterday morning and drove out to a place down the road that I’ve been eyeing for a future painting site.  It was so peaceful and I arrived just before the sun arose.  I will say that the hardest part was attaching the quick release to my tripod, but after several attempts, I finally got it.  Not too thrilled as it wiggled a bit but otherwise it worked.  Then I unfortunately sat on my only plastic water container and smashed it.  Humph!  Artist ingenuity jumped up and I cut the bottom off a bottle of water.  Worked perfectly.

The next test was the new mini Stay Wet palette that I added too much water to the sponge.  The paper palette wrinkled a bit but I could work with it.  Lesson here:  try new equipment at home before you hit the road.

Here’s a photo of the beautiful rolling fields that I was trying to capture.  I find that I really only have two hours to make a go of a painting before I lose the light but this was enough.A sunny early morning photo 1000

And here’s a photo of the field painting at the time I packed up.A sunny early morning photo - 2-1000

When I got back home, I wasn’t quite satisfied with the colors or composition of the painting so decided to work on it some more.  You can see where I lowered the clouds to emphasize the dawn.  Then I pushed back some hills and brought forth some of the sunny highlights. A sunny early morning painting2-1000 I’m not totally satisfied with the overall painting but I usually have to live with them for a while.  It doesn’t seem to have the personality of the scene I was trying to capture but barring that, isn’t too bad.  What do you think?  Which one do you like best.

So, lessons learned from my first acrylic plein air painting adventure.

  1. Test out new equipment first before you take it into the field.
  2. Be adaptable.
  3. Acrylics are nice in that they dry much quicker than oils but are more opaque than watercolors.
  4. And….don’t sit on your water container!

Making friends with green

French Lick Creek, final, oil on canvas, 24x30, Kit Miracle

French Lick Creek, final, oil on canvas, 24×30, Kit Miracle

Green is one of the most difficult colors for most artists to handle.  However, if you’re going to paint landscapes, you’d better make friends with green.  I think the biggest mistake inexperienced artists make is not really looking at the color.  Green comes in many varieties – yellowish, orangey, silver, blue, purple.  Even just looking closely and slightly emphasizing what you see will help you immensely.  To learn more about the painting above and to see a demo, check out the page French Lick Creek, making friends with green, demonstration.

FrenchLickCreek,detail1 FrenchLickCreek,detail2 FrenchLickCreek,detail3 FrenchLickCreek,detail4