Plein Air Experiment, Part 2 (Afternoon)

"Pomegranate Bushes" 9 x 12 chalk pastel on paper

One of the challenges I worried about with painting plein air was light. The first couple of days, I waited in the morning until the fog burned off, so there would be enough light. Of course, once the light made an appearance, so did the bugs.

The next few days (leading up to June 26th), the timing was better for me to paint in the afternoon (or dusk). The piece above, "Pomegranate Bushes," was painted in the late afternoon, as the sun was setting to the west.

I happen to have a soft spot for these bushes. I've eaten their fruit and shared it with friends, I've taken pictures with my dogs by them, and I was relieved to see them recover quickly after the 2007 wildfire. They thrive on their own, and house many of the birds I love to listen to throughout the day. As I painted them, I tried to focus on their basic core shape and the effect of the setting sun on their leaves. Pomegranate bushes are famous for being messy, and it was in the spirit of messiness that I worked in an abstract style with lots of pastel strokes.

The second piece was completed at dusk, and presented the biggest challenge of all:

"Birdhouse in Hiding" 4.5 x 6 chalk pastel on paper
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Bugs! Hungry, flesh-eating gnats that kept attacking my arms, so that I got pretty good at painting with one hand and swatting with the other. This piece was done in about 25 minutes. Since it was dusk, I had to work quickly to capture what was left of the fading light. This poor little bird house sits buried in an oak tree, often covered by wild cucumber in the spring. I'm not sure if this one gets much in the way of inhabitants, but I enjoy seeing it peep through the leaves and branches throughout the year.

I'm finding plein air painting to be enjoyable, and may invest in some bug spray so I can continue to work outdoors. The challenges are different than the studio, in that you have to be on your toes and make the most of your session. This works in my favor, however, as I always need a little bit of pressure to push my skills into overdrive and achieve a piece I enjoy looking at later.

In my next post, I will be sharing my plein air piece from the contest at the Del Mar Fair, completed on June 26th. It's a big one, so I've been waiting for my camera cord to arrive in order to take a proper picture and share it online. Here's a hint: think flower power meets German engineering!

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