A perfect morning at the river

The last couple  of times I went out plein air painting, I faced some pretty gray wet days. The gray days are, for me, always the hardest. Things don't flow as easily with those close value ranges, and I don't get as excited about composing without the drama of the light. Don't get me wrong. I love a painting filled with gorgeous muted color and subtle grays, but a successful painting of lovely grays (not mud)  is not as easy to achieve as it might seem. Luckily, Tuesday, the sun was shining. It was also my last, long open day not scheduled with house stuff, moving, or preschool parties. So I and a couple of  painting buddies met down at the James River on Belle Isle to do a little painting.

I love this place. I have gone on several hikes around Belle Isle (which I highly recommend doing if you are in RVA). It's a fascinating place, from the trek on high over the footbridge that straddles the James River, to it's dark legacy as a  former Confederate POW camp during the Civil War.  Earlier still, it was also a pre-English settlement fishing ground for the Native Americans.

But aside from some historic markers and some large boulders used as cemetery markers, there is not much left from those eras to remind us. Nature has largely reclaimed it today, making it a beautiful spot for wildlife watching, sunbathing, or  kayaking on the class IV Hollywood rapids.

We set up at various points along some of the big flat rocks at the Rapids. Practically our only other companion when we first arrived was a beautiful gray heron sunning itself on a nearby rock. Later the sunbathers came, but they only added to the feeling that I was on a mini vacation being lulled by the sound of rushing water all around me.

  "Morning at Belle Isle" Oil on panel, 9x12"©  Jennifer E Young

"Morning at Belle Isle" Oil on panel, 9x12"© Jennifer E Young

This was a practice in painting rocks. The large rock in the foreground was mostly in shadow, with just a few dapples of light peeking through the shade of the nearby trees. Once that large rock started getting lit up I knew I'd better wrap it up.

James River Painting in progress by Jennifer E Young
James River Painting in progress by Jennifer E Young

I'm still working on my plein air speed. I may be spending a little too long getting myself set up just so, but each time I go out I feel like I am getting a little bit more comfortable outdoors again. I am not exactly a novice to plein air painting, but life demands have kept me more often in the studio these last several years, and it's been hard to keep up a momentum or a rhythm painting outdoors. For me,  it's one of those things where you either use it or lose it, but I am determined to get my plein air painting chops back! Hopefully once we move and settle in the new house (a matter of a couple of weeks now) I will be able to "use it" even more.