Two James River minis before Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! In a couple of hours I'll be cooking up a storm, but first,  I'm sharing two little mini paintings of the James River.  "The Rivah" as it's known to many locals, is one of my favorite places to paint, or just to sit and meditate. It reveals different features at different access points  as it cuts its path through our fair city and beyond. Sometimes it is completely natural with narrow paths covered by tree roots. At other points it is fairly manicured. In either case there is a sense of the wild and untamed, and her rapids rage in spite of our civilized urban sidewalks and towering facades. 

"Lee Bridge", ©Jennifer Young. Oil on board, 6x8" (SOLD) 

"Lee Bridge", ©Jennifer Young. Oil on board, 6x8" (SOLD) 

The above painting features one of the many little "islands" you will find along this urban stretch of the James. In the background the Lee Bridge looms. Suspended below is the pedestrian footbridge that leads from Tredegar street over to Belle Isle. It is a most dramatic walk on a windy day, but the view is unbeatable. 

"The Falls at Belle Isle", ©Jennifer Young. Oil on board, 6x8" $395.00 (framed)

"The Falls at Belle Isle", ©Jennifer Young. Oil on board, 6x8" $395.00 (framed)

This view is the reward that awaits after traversing the suspended footbridge. From my safe perch on the bank of rocks, I often enjoy watching the kayakers making their way across the rapids, as well as  many waterfowl, including blue herons. You'd never know that you were right in the middle of a mid-sized city. It is one of the truly great things about living in the Richmond area, and on the eve of Thanksgiving, in addition, to family, friends, and good food, I am feeling grateful to live here. 



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.