Tag Archives: plein air

10 states, 4,435 miles, four national parks, 16 days

Duck on a Rock, Grand Canyon, plein air sketch, 12 x 16 Kit Miracle

Part I

Ten states (plus three of them twice).  Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, and back through Illinois and Indiana.  Lots of different terrain and climates.

4,435 miles.  Not really too bad.

4 National Parks – Carlsbad Caverns, Grand Canyon, Zion, and Arches.  Plus, you can’t be in the area without stopping at Roswell to see the alien museum.  It’s not exactly on the way to anywhere.  Even their streetlights are painted like aliens.

16 days – we left a day early and returned a day early.

Whew!

Earlier this month we drove down to Texas to pick up our granddaughter for the summer.  Then we went of a big adventure.

I like to keep a journal of my travels with notes and musings, small sketches, mileage, and even sometimes the label from that chocolate shop in Paris which I never can remember.  These travel journals are always fun to revisit later, long after my memories have faded and gotten fuzzy.  They instantly transport me back to the place and time, allowing me to experience the trip all over again.  They’re, of course, nothing so monumental as the Lewis and Clark journals, but they work for me.

Sun breaking through the clouds over Arkansas, sketch, Kit Miracle

After months of planning and preparation, making reservations at the big stops (didn’t realize it was the Grand Canyon’s 100th anniversary until afterwards), we lit out on June 2nd, a day earlier than planned.  We were concerned about the flooding in the Midwest and decided to skirt along the Mississippi to Arkansas and then take the southwestern route to Texas.

Flooded Arkansas River in Little Rock, sketch Kit Miracle

Fortunately, the only flooding we saw on the way out was the Arkansas River in Little Rock but that didn’t affect the drive.

Driving west on 87, sketch, Kit Miracle

After we picked up the granddaughter, we headed west through the Texas hill country (beautiful), to the flatter and dryer areas of west Texas.  Just a delight to be on the road again, away from the daily maintenance of the homestead.

Longhorns resting in shade (from memory), sketch, Kit Miracle

Abandoned House, Texas sketch, Kit Miracle

We negotiated miles of roadwork through the oil fields of west Texas and New Mexico to land at our first national park, Carlsbad Caverns.  My husband and granddaughter had never been in a cave, and even though I have, this was a truly fascinating experience.  The vistas outside were gorgeous, and inside the cave was even more so.  We elected to take the elevator down (700+ feet) rather than walk.  The National Park Service has done such a wonderful job of making this site accessible and interesting.  We took a self-guided tour of the great room which still took an hour and a half. Although many other areas remained to be viewed, that was enough for us.  We didn’t stay for the bat exodus at sundown  either.  Just too tired and road-weary and ready for a meal and bed.

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, sketch, Kit Miracle

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, sketch, Kit Miracle

Carlsbad is probably typical of any town in the oil field area with lots of traffic, overpriced rooms, and not much scenery.  As we were waiting at a restaurant for dinner, we spoke with a lady who was a local who said it was always this way during boom times.  People renting a room in their homes for $1200 or more.  And getting it.

Sample sketchbook – journal with alien streetlight, sketch, Kit Miracle

Our stop the next morning heading north was Roswell, NM.  You have to stop if you’re in the area as it’s not exactly on the way to anywhere.  We visited the alien museum built in a former movie house.  It was pretty much as I expected.  A mix of history, facts and lots of speculation.  (I hesitate to use the term cheesy but you get the idea.)  Of course, had to buy the T-shirts and trinkets as I don’t expect to get down this way again.  The whole town has gone alien nuts; even the streetlamps are painted as aliens.  The annual UFO festival this year is July 5-7, 2019.  I expect it will be a sight.

Butte, New Mexico, sketch, Kit Miracle

We continued on down the road towards Gallup where we spent the night.  My granddaughter’s major requirement for a hotel was a pool (she’s nine).  After a quick stop in the morning at Walmart, we stocked up on food for our stay at the Grand Canyon.

The further west we drove, the more interesting the landscape became with the big mountain in Flagstaff calling us (Humphrey’s Peak).  It still had snow on the top.  After a roadside picnic lunch (sure got tired of fast food in a hurry), we headed north to the east entrance of the GC National Park.  I’d been there before but the others had not so I couldn’t wait to introduce them to “my” canyon.

We drove through sparsely populated reservation territories.  Some beautiful scenery but appeared to be struggling.

Finally, we arrived at the East entrance of the Grand Canyon. I want to insert here that every park employee that I have met has been terrific.  They’ve always been so polite and helpful.  This is true for every park we have visited.  And I also want to emphasize that our National Parks are one of the greatest assets the American people have.  People from all over the world travel to see our lands and it makes me just want to bust with pride.

Duck on Rock, Grand Canyon, sketch, Kit Miracle

Duck on Rock, Grand Canyon, sketch, Kit Miracle

My granddaughter and I got up early and went out plein air painting.  Well, I painted and she checked out the rocks and vegetation.  The first day was very windy, but after that, it eased up.  My husband was really affected by altitude sickness but we all had a great time.

Next week I’ll post Part II of the remainder of the trip, parks and scenery

Hopi House, Grand Canyon Village, sketch, Kit Miracle

Trees at Alton, Indiana, on the Ohio River

Trees at Alton, Indiana, on the Ohio River. Plein air, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

Yesterday I drove up to Indianapolis to drop off a couple of paintings at the Indiana Plein Art Painters Association annual member exhibit.  I haven’t entered this before, mostly because of the three hour drive.  But the day was a beautiful fall day, starting off with some fog in low-lying areas. The fall colors were breathtaking.  For those of you who think Indiana is represented by flat cornfields, nothing could be further from the truth.  The southern part consists of beautiful hills, rivers, and streams covered mostly by deciduous forests.  This time of year, the landscape is a panorama of golds and reds.  It was just a glorious day for a drive.

One of the two paintings I entered is Trees at Alton, Indiana, on the Ohio River.  I just painted this back in late September.  As you can see, the tall trees on the left are just beginning to show some color.  Alton is a tiny little collection of houses and has been flooded many times over the years. But the people who live here are passionate about living on the Ohio River so they always come back.  There is something mesmerizing about the big river with its barges and other river traffic.  I can just sit and watch the river for hours.

This scene is pretty classic.  Just some trees, a path leading into the picture, a river and some hills.  A very peaceful vista.

If you’re interested in seeing the whole exhibit, it is at the Hoosier Salon Gallery in Carmel, just north of Indianapolis.  The exhibit runs from November 10th  through  December 14th.  The reception is Saturday,, November 10th 5-9 pm.  There are many beautiful paintings of all parts of Indiana and most of the work is for sale. Take a gander at this exhibit and visit lovely downtown Carmel with its many arty and eclectic shops and eateries.  A great time for some holiday shopping.

Painting close to home

Garden in August, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

Visiting new places is always fun and inspiring for artists, but many of the best paintings have been made close to home.  One of my favorites is one that Renoir painted of Monet in his garden.  It’s just a homey painting of a backyard with other houses in the distance.

Renoir painting of Monet in garden

Today I decided paint a scene that I see every day from my breakfast table. It is of my garden this month with the tall sunflowers and multi-color zinnias and other flowers.  The rest of the garden is still producing but is beginning to look a little straggly this time of year.  We’re still getting plenty of tomatoes, eggplants, beans, and peppers.  But it’s the flowers that I really love. The birds and butterflies love them, too.

Garden in August. The sunflowers and zinnias are in full bloom. The vegies are still producing heavily. Lots of tomatoes, eggplants, beans and peppers.

I got out early to take advantage of the cool morning and the shade.  The canvas is primed with a beige color and painted black on the border.

Garden in August, step 1. Here I have generally covered most of the canvas. Notice that I’ve edited the trees in the background to provide more interest.

The first step as usual for me is to lay in the general composition and the dark colors.  As you can see, I did some editing, removing the line of trees in the background and just including a few big trees.  I also squashed things together a bit for the composition.

Garden in August, step 2. More blocking in plus I’ve added the sky and most of the foreground.

Next I laid in more darks and some brighter greens as well as the sky.  I wanted a rosy early morning sky….so I made one.

Actually the most difficult part was painting the flowers.  It is so hard to get them bright without being gaudy.  I ended up painting a light wash of pale green over some of them to tone down their brightness.

The entire painting took about three hours minus some time for a phone call to a friend while I was waiting for paint to dry. The point here is that you don’t have to travel a great distance to find something worthy to paint.  A good subject might be just outside your window.

Plein air painting at the Parklands

Bridge at Parklands, plein air, acrylic, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

I attended a plein air painting event today at the Parklands.  This is a new park in the area which just opened last month.  Already, it has become a popular destination for dog walkers, bicyclists, moms pushing strollers, just about anyone of any age.  Created from a former golf course, it features three lakes/ponds, several water features, an outdoor musical instruments area, exercise equipment activities, a pavilion for special events, a splash park for kids, and many other features.

Although the day was promising to be exceedingly hot with temperatures in the 90s, I elected my first painting should be of a new bridge over a waterfall.  Usually one only has about two hours to make a plein air painting before the sun and the shadows move too much.

I always start with a small black and white Notan sketch before I begin to paint. Then on a toned canvas, I lay in the darks.  Since I was working in acrylic, it didn’t take long for the paint to dry.  In fact, I had to use an acrylic retarder to slow down the  drying.

This is the view I selected. I liked the shape of the new bridge and the contre jour light (backlight). As you can see, I began painting in the darks on a red-toned canvas.

I start with a one inch brush which will get 85% of the painting done.  The bigger the brush, the less fussy I am.  Sometimes I begin laying in the sky.  In this case, I laid in some of the other darks and midtones and just kept working away.  The bridge was critical as any mistakes could really make the painting ….well, not good.

About 85% finished. Leaving the bridge for last, I concentrated on the landscape first.

The final touches are to add the lightest colors, the highlights, the sky holes in the trees, most with smaller brushes.  I really like the peeps of red showing through the painting.  I think it adds a little bit of liveliness.

A friendly little butterfly who kept me company quite a while. I think it’s a Painted Lady butterfly. Very appropriate.

One interesting thing happened to me while I was painting.  I had a little butterfly who just kept hanging around.  She walked along the top of the painting, then the sides, not even moving as I painted closer to her.  If I shooed her away, she quickly came back.  If my identification is correct, this was a Painted Lady butterfly. How appropriate.

After I finished this painting, I moved to the shade where I completed another one of a different scene.  Fortunately, there was a nice breeze all day but it was still pretty dang hot.

To my surprise at final judging, I was awarded first prize.  So it was worth the melting conditions.  Maybe the Painted Lady brought me a little luck.

A Week of Painting

A question that I often receive is, “Are you still painting?”  This puzzles me.  Do we ask musicians if they still make music?  Or writers if they still write?

The answer is, Yes, I paint nearly every day for several hours.  This is what I do.  I can’t seem to help myself.  I often do some inside work or gardening in the early part of the day, then head out to the studio and paint. And paint. And paint.

These are three paintings that I completed last week.

Chinese Bridge at Missouri Botanical Gardens, St. Louis, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30, Kit Miracle

This large one is acrylic on canvas 24 x 30 inches. The scene is from the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.  As it’s only a few hours away, my husband and I like to visit for a quick trip.  The gardens are beautiful in nearly any season.  The scene depicted here is from the Chinese garden area.  I was attracted to the bridge, of course, but also the back lighting.  It has some echoes of Monet but is pure American impressionism.

Windy Day at the Lake, acrylic on canvas board, 12 x 16, Kit Miracle

The next painting is called Windy Day at the Lake.  I painted this en plein air on Friday. My husband and I went over to the Lake (Patoka); him to fish, me to paint.  We found a nice sheltered  area and had a wonderful morning at the lake.  The acrylic sketch is 12 x 16 on canvas board.

Japanese Bridge at Missouri Botanical Gardens, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20, Kit Miracle

The final painting that I completed last week is of the bridge in the Japanese area of the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis.  I was attracted to the early autumn colors, the shape of the bridge, and the reflections in the lake.  Painted in acrylic on canvas, it has the edges painted black so it wouldn’t necessarily need a frame but could be hung as is.  It just gives such a feeling of peace.

So, as an artist, this is what I do.

Plein air painting, Brooks Bridge, Martin County, Indiana

Plein air painting of Brooks Bridge, oil on canvas board, Kit Miracle

I went plein air painting with my friend Bill Whorrall on Monday.  It was a beautiful and unseasonably warm December day with temps in the 60s.  However, the wind was brisk which posed some problems later.

Brooks Bridge across the East Fork of the White River in Martin County, Indiana

Bill lives in Martin County, Indiana which is lovely and boasts a variety of terrains – rivers, stone ledges, hills, woods.  We decided to paint this one lane bridge, Brooks Bridge, which spans the East Fork of the White River south of Shoals.  We had spotted this location before but the ground was too wet to drive on.

While we were painting, we saw about four vehicles, including a four wheeler; probably the farmer checking us out.  (It’s hunting season and there are lots of poachers.)  I just waved and he drove back.  The sparse traffic is probably why the bridge is only one lane.  Yeah, impossible for you city people to believe but they still exist.

Bill was working on some ink drawings that he created with sticks and twigs as drawing instruments.  You can see the results here.  Really neat.

Plein air painting along the East Fork of the White River south of Shoals. My friend Bill Whorrall is drawing with ink and sticks.

Painting half done

I decided to use a canvas panel toned with yellow paint.  It was pretty bright but where it shows through, it seems to add some magic.  I like it anyway.

Plein air painting of Brooks Bridge. The wind nearly took my easel right after I took this photo!

The only real problem was that the wind picked up throughout the morning.  A strong gust nearly knocked my easel into the river!

I tweaked the final painting in my studio, darkening the details and adding highlights.  It’s sometimes difficult to really see and judge colors and contrasts in the bright sunlight.  What do you think?

Yeah, it’s for sale at my Etsy shop.

Urban sketchers

Urban sketchers is a group of people from all over the world who sketch their local areas and post them online at Urban Sketchers.

This is a little different from plein air painters but in the same vein. Sometimes they get together at various locales, but their different styles are inspiring.  It is also great fun to view the different parts of the world that they sketch.  Many of the paintings are pretty complete while others are really just “sketches.”  Check them out!

Shari Blaukopf, Canadian artist

A big tree which Blaukopf paints each autumn.

Another artist that I follow online is Shari Blaukopf, an artist living in Montreal, Canada.  I first encountered her work though Urban Sketchers, a world-wide group of artists who primarily paint outdoors, or in plein air.

One of the courses which Blaukopf teaches on Craftsy.

I admire Shari’s work of loosely painted watercolors with pen and ink, or sometimes with pencil overlay. Her usual topic is street scenes, but she also records human figures in various situations, subways, restaurants, etc.  And her dog Alice  She can find beauty in some of the most unusual places.

Shari Blaukopf, sketch of her dog Alice

Cover for the book by Shari Blaukopf

Shari teaches in Montreal.  She also conducts classes on Craftsy and has written more than one book.  She makes it look so easy.  Check her out at her blog https://shariblaukopf.com/ or her website at……http://www.blaukopfwatercolours.com/

You Can’t Go Home Again…or Can you?

Thomas Wolfe wrote, “You Can’t Go Home Again” but I think you can.  I had the opportunity to visit my hometown, Richmond, Indiana, last weekend on a plein air painting adventure with Indiana Plein Air Painters.  I hadn’t been back for at least 15 years and did not have high expectations due to some economic problems that I’d heard about.  I don’t know about that but the town sure looked pretty to me.

Richmond sits on the Indiana – Ohio border in the eastern center of the state.  It is an old town with lots of Quaker settlement as well as many other religions.  Since the late 1800s, they’ve embraced quite an art scene including one of the few in-school art museums at the local high school. I grew up thinking that everyone passed famous paintings on the way to class.  Little did I know.

Richmond known for it’s beautiful Glen Miller Park and Millionaire’s row, along with some of the most exquisite old houses and varied architectural styles.  I could find many subjects for painting there!

The pond at the beautiful Glen Miller park, adjacent to Millionaires Row

Typical houses in old Richmond, Indiana

The event was only one day so I decided to visit my old alma mater of Earlham College and paint Stout Meeting House.  The weather was perfect with a slight breeze and a very peaceful campus due to summer break.

Plein air painting at Stout Meeting House on the campus of Earlham College

Stout Meeting House, Earlham College, Watercolor/pen and ink, 11×14, Kit Miracle

Later I took some time to visit my great-grandma’s house, one of the oldest log cabins in Wayne County.  I was so pleased to see that it had been lovingly restored and looked better than when my great-grandmother lived there.  No one was home but I promised myself to stop by on my next visit.

Great grandma’s house, Richmond, Indiana

And I had forgotten how many beautiful churches Richmond boasts.  It seems as if there is another church on every corner.

Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Indiana

So, although you can’t go home again, you can visit it.  Your hometown just might surprise you.  I’ll be back soon and longer.

One hour painting challenge

Painting in plein air is a great time to challenge yourself with a limited time to complete a work.  Usually you’re painting quickly anyway due to the changing light and conditions.  In this piece, I decided to limit myself to one hour.  I even set a timer.

Wild daylilies

Orange daylilies grow wild here in southern Indiana and can be found along nearly any country road in June.  They’re so beautiful and hardy.  This patch of flowers I actually dug up along the road since, surprisingly, our farm had zero of these elegant and lively flowers.

One morning I noticed the light pouring through the trees which seemed to spotlight this flowerbed.  I also loved the dark background of the bushes behind the flowers which seemed to make them stand out even more.

Wild daylilies plein air, Kit Miracle

I decided to work in acrylic which is not my strongest medium to work with.  The pochade box is a Sienna which is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship in itself.  As an aside, I will say that I was not prepared for this painting venture; I had to keep returning to my studio for supplies that I had forgotten. (Note to self:  make a list of supplies for each medium and keep everything together.) I also limited my palette to four colors plus white.  I could have eliminated the green and just stuck with the primary colors.  I would also have used an acrylic paint retarder medium as the paint kept drying too quickly.

When I set the timer, I dove into the work by doing a quick sketch and using larger brushes.  I tend to cover large amounts of canvas for the initial lay in, going back to add details and tweak things.  That’s my method but you may work differently.  The whole point of the timer and this exercise was to force me to make decisions more quickly and not get overly fussy.  Having too much time is not always beneficial.

Wild daylilies, Kit Miracle, acrylic on canvas, 9 x 12

Shooting for bright colors and the contrajour light, I think I accomplished my task.  What are your thoughts?