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Plein Air Washington Artists’ “Little Gems” Juried Show

juried show, landscape painting, oil painting, representational art, plein air painting, realism, classical realism, tonalism

Today’s weather – fog

Today was a typical, foggy November morning in the foothills of the Cascade mountains outside of Seattle, WA.  Foggy, a little drizzle, cold and bone chilling.  Snowing in the mountains but not down here.  The swirls of mist hid the shapes and forms of the landscape in a monochrome format, kind of like black and white TV.  I tried to capture this tree just as the fog began to lift and the monochrome changed to color before my eyes.  Another plein air color sketch.


fog, landscape, mist, Cascade mountains, plein air sketch

Lifting Veil, 6 x 8


Color Sketch for Rattlesnake Cove

I made a drawing of this willow bush against the dark trees a couple of weeks ago.  The water was still and dark showing little reflection of the big trees in the background.  When I returned to the site this week to capture the scene in a plein air color sketch the lake had dropped by several feet (Rattlesnake Lake is controlled by a dam by the City of Seattle).   All the water in front of the willow had disappeared and I was looking at brown lake bottom instead of the beautiful yellow reflections.  What to do?  Well, I decided I liked the memory of the scene from before so I stayed put and painted, making up the reflection from memory!  How convenient is that?  Once again, my paintings are about a confluence of time, place and concept.

Here is the color sketch.  I worked for two mornings during the same time for about two hours each day to complete the painting.  I started with a burnt umber wipeout and painted on top of that.  I like how the warmth of the darkish reddish shows through and gives it an overall color harmony.  This sketch is about 7″x12″.  The larger studio painting will be a golden section size of 12″x19.42 inches.

This is an iphone photo so please excuse the glare.  I’ll be getting professional photos taken soon.

James Whistler and the Memory Color Sketch

James Whistler (1870’s) was famous for his memory work – particularly his nocturnes.  He used to have a friend row him in a boat out on the Thames and he would sit for hours looking and memorizing the scene.  It was too dark to draw or make notes so he would speak out loud to his companion and ask him to verify what he was seeing.  When he returned to the studio he would rush in and slap thin coats of paint on the canvas as fast as he could before the memory faded.

I’ve been working up at Rattlesnake Lake on a couple of motifs.  This one caught my eye right off the bat and I sat down to draw – immediately – before the light changed.  Instead of snapping a picture (which would be a whole heck of a lot faster and easier) I sat and drew the scene before me.  A couple of days later I sat down at the easel in my studio to do this color sketch.  Having drawn the image already I was familiar with it and it didn’t take much to conjure up the scene in my mind’s eye.  As I put down my impression on canvas the painting began to appear – looking much like the drawing, but in color.   Soon enough the painting began to make its own aesthetic demands.  There is an “alchemy” that takes place when I swing back and forth between the memory and the image on canvas.



The Portrait Sketch

Portrait Sketch of Mark  11″x11″ Oil on Linen
Portrait Sketch of Mark – Profile  11″x11″  Oil on Linen
A portrait sketch is an attempt to capture the essence of the model in a limited time frame.   The artist makes sense of the essential information, including basic shapes, value structure and color notes.


For this plein air study I used a very limited palette of titanium white, cad yellow medium, yellow ochre, Indian red, alizarin crimson permanent, ultramarine blue, viridian green and ivory black.

Bird house 7″x7″ oil on linen on board