Today's auction listing is for a loose, impressionist painting of North Carolina's Outer Banks. I painted this little 8x8" oil "en plein air" over the summer during our annual vacation down there. It's a special place and it's a trip I look forward to all year long! This auction will end on Wednesday, November 8th at 8 PM US Eastern time, or 5 PM Pacific.
Paintings of France, Italy, and Beyond ©Jennifer E Young
What a fall it has been so far. I thought once school started things would normalize (ha!) but the schedule continues it's craziness. Most days lately I have just enough time (and energy) to paint, and maybe quickly post here and there on social media. Last week was major at my husband's job, and he had to pull some of all-nighters out of town while I played the single parent at home.
Unfortunately this blog suffers during times like these, and my rhythm tends to stumble. I don't feel comfortable venturing too far away from my daughter's school when my husband is also far away, so I opt for studio painting instead of painting in the field. The set-up and cleanup is just quicker and more efficient when I need to head for the pickup line at the end of the school day, or should Iget a call from the school nurse or whatever. When the weather is gorgeous and fleeting as it has been, this sometimes makes me feel a little sad not to go out to some beautiful countryside location and paint outdoors.
On the up side, the studio allows me to experiment and try new things. Not only can I paint larger (yay!) but I can spend more time designing and composing. I can also decide how loyal I want to be to the image I'm working from, or whether I want to push that edge and see if I can manipulate the color more to create a certain color harmony or mood. So yeah, I was definitely going for a mood with this piece, and I have to admit I had a good time doing it!
Due to the cloud cover and my auto settings on my camera, my photo references were somewhat washed out in terms of color. So, much of the color is inspired by my memory and another plein air painting I did in the summer:
The image above has more warmth to it due to the time of day and the location of the sun so close to the horizon, but I loved the beautiful soft pastel colors in the sky and water and I felt that something similar would work well for the hazier light of a cloudy early evening, with just a tinge of the sunlight warming up the clouds as touches of blue sky break through.
During our beach trips to Kill Devil Hills, I often walk down toward Kitty Hawk to the Avalon Pier and enjoy the people watching as I go. I especially love to see the kids playing by the shore, so in-the-moment and involved in their play. I know that feeling all too well. It's the way I feel when I'm painting down there, though my time always seems to end all too soon.
I completed this painting (or so I thought) a short time before we left for our annual summer trek to the beach. I really liked it, for the most part. And having considered it finished, I stuck it up on my studio wall before our trip. After our return though, I started looking at it with fresh eyes. Some things that tugged on me before were now really starting to become more bothersome. But I decided to let it marinate a while longer as I was distracted with other projects.
Finally, I decided that while I liked the overall mood in this piece, I did not like the little closed umbrella to the left of my grouping of sunbathers. It kept pulling my eye away from where I wanted to go, and it was sort of an ambiguous object sitting there. Still I wanted something near that spot that would perhaps pull the painting together a little better. So I began flipping through my trip photos for some ideas and inspiration, and came across a snap of a little boy digging intently in the sand. I sketched it out quickly in a nearby notebook and set to work.
There wasn't a lot of built up texture where the umbrella was, so I only had to scrape it down just a little bit with a razor. Then I proceeded with a little "oiling out" (in this case with just a little gambol and solvent free fluid) to help the new paint layer adhere to the older but still very fresh under layer. Here is the revised painting with the little boy. I also brightened the sky a bit more as it was feeling a bit intense and heavy.
Here's a detail of the figures:
I don't know about you, but I like this much better, and I find it finally worthy of celebrating with a frame and a signature. :)
Though I have a great love for plein air painting and do it as often as my time and circumstances allow, I have, out of necessity, become much more of a studio painter these last few years. Working on location is like painting calisthenics. It demands one's full concentration, advance planning, additional travel time, and a good amount of in-the-moment ingenuity in order to capture the particular color notes and light effects of that point in time. As with physical exercise, I get both an exhilarating rush and a bit of a drain afterwards.
While I love the spontaneity in my plein air work, my studio work has its advantages. For one I can be more deliberate. Without the limitations imposed by time and changing light, I can go larger in the studio, and at times, improve on my drawing and composition. I can also experiment more easily with various formats, color combinations, and other formal aspects of 2D artistry.
While I have been engaged in both practices for many years now, I want to do more to relate the two disciplines to each other in a more purposeful way. Part of the reason I haven't always managed this is because I tend to consign my plein air paintings to galleries almost immediately after I complete them, which means I am separated from them for either the length of the consignment, or forever if the painting is sold outright. I do have photographs of all of my plein air paintings as well as photographs of the location (though as you can see above, the latter often tells me very little about the true color I saw in the moment.)
Therefore I'm making a concerted effort to do more plein-air to studio paintings, using the actual plein air paintings as my primary reference when at all possible. Here's my most recent effort:
Here's my setup, in progress. I used my tablet holder to prop up my plein air painting so that both pieces would be under the same light for better color accuracy. It actually worked very well. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention! :)
Though I don't get there often enough, I have long maintained a love affair with North Carolina's Outer Banks. Last week we again made our annual sojourn there, and what a week it was! The weather was near perfect, the water a crystal clear turquoise blue. There were dolphin sightings, beautiful sunrises, and pelicans, sandpipers, and seagulls presiding over it all.
This was the first year in a long time that I was able to get out and paint so often. I kind of made it my mission to do so, especially since the weather was so cooperative all week (my fabulous husband and daughter were pretty darn cooperative too.) My fair skin suffers from too much sun and heat, so I took to painting mostly in the early morning or early evening to salvage it as best I could. Here's a little slideshow of the plein air paintings I completed there. I plan to use these as jumping off points for developing larger pieces in the studio since I will likely have to curtail much of my plein air painting during the unforgivably hot month of August.
All of these paintings are done in Gamblin traditional oils on linen mounted canvas board. I used my new favorite plein air medium, Gamblin's Solvent Free Gel as well as a small dropper bottle of Gamsol for laying in my design at the beginning stages of the painting. This really keeps the transport and setup of my plein air gear lighter and more streamlined. Hover your mouse over each of the enlarged images to read more about each piece.