Plein air on Brown's Island

I realize I have been pretty delinquent with my blog these last couple of weeks, and I still need to share the final of my latest Tuscany studio painting. I won't bore you with any personal details, but suffice it to say that some of the other "stuff of life" kept me out of the studio and away from the computer for a bit. But I'm happy to say things seem to be normalizing again, and with that has also come a break in the weather. After weeks of blazing heat and mosquito-loving humidity, the air has actually been cool in the mornings! The days still warm up by noon but the heat doesn't stick to you. I am sure it won't last but right now it feels like September. So to celebrate on Friday, I made a break for some plein air painting on the river.

Before I had my daughter, when I was doing a lot more plein air painting, one of my favorite local painting destinations was the James River Park system. It still calls to me, so even though I can often feel pressed for time to even complete my studio paintings, when the opportunity knocked for some time to paint en plein air on a gorgeous day, I had to take it.

I must say though I felt pretty rusty and out of practice. First, I unwisely did not prepare the night before, so I had none of my gear together. It took me about half an hour to get everything packed. Then I forgot to tell the sitter this or that, so that delayed even leaving the house. Then I had the good angel/ bad devil battle inside my head as I tried to wimp out of going down to the river at all:

Devil: It's too late. By the time you get down there and set up all of the good light will be gone.

Angel: It's not THAT late. It's still morning light, just do it!

Devil: You don't even know where you're going to paint. You'll be lugging this load of gear around for hours trying to find a spot to set up.

Angel: Where we are going there are a dozen or more painting possibilities. The hardest job will be deciding what to paint.

Devil: Shut up, Angel.

Angel: Right- plein air painting it is!

This is the same kind of argument that goes on inside my head when driving to the gym. And like exercising at the gym, plein air painting is an exercise that demands a lot of practice before you really see the results you envision, or feel in the zone. The first two (or twelve) times you practice you still feel flabby and out of shape, and maybe a little frustrated. But then one day you start to notice that you are toning up and actually improving, and you are encouraged to go further and maybe even up the ante.

Well I admit I feel somewhat flabby at the moment (both literally and figuratively, though I have to say that plein air painting is still a lot more fun than going to the gym!) Nevertheless, As you may have guessed, the good angel won the argument. Here's the painting:

James River plein air painting by Jennifer Young "James River Overlook, Brown's Island" Oil on Canvas, 12x9"

As the title would suggest, I painted this piece at the James River park on Brown's island. It's more of a study than a "finished" piece, but it was so great to just get out there and make the attempt.

We have had a lot of rain this summer, so the river has been pretty brown and swollen. To get this view I set up on the footbridge that leads out to an overlook on the James River and acts as a historical Civil War marker telling the story of the fall of Richmond in 1865. I think it is a really inventive and powerful exhibit, entitled "Three Days In April 1865".

"Along this bridge, the events of the first week in April 1865—when Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, fell to the Union army—are recounted in the words of people who were present at the time. Some were witnesses and others participants as the Confederates evacuated the city, the Union army marched down Main Street, and enslaved Richmonders gained their freedom."

I set up on this footbridge, which was technically the exhibit. You can see my approximate vantage point at this link. I'm not totally certain that my site selection would have been approved by the museum curators had anybody been policing the site, but luckily I didn't leave a trace of having been there (other than this painting, of course)!