Morning Surf

Immediately after I wrapped up painting my sunrise painting, I turned to look up the beach toward the pier and noticed how lovely the waves looked lapping up on the curving shoreline. So since I finally felt like I was getting somewhere with these paints, I decided that this would be a back-to-back session, one piece after another. Here' s the beach in early morning, post sunrise, around 8:30 a.m. or so:

Plein air coastal beach landscape painting of the Outer Banks, NC ©Jennifer E. Young, All rights reserved"Morning Surf" Oil on Canvas, 9x12" Contact me to purchase!

For this painting and the prior sunrise one I had to lay the paint on pretty thickly to manipulate the edges the way I wanted. Also I found the titanium white and cadmium yellow light were much less intense than what I was used to with my traditional oils, so the highlights were painted very thickly indeed. I hadn't noticed this in my first venture with the Water Soluble oils, but it became much more apparent with these beach paintings because they are pretty high key.  Overall the effect seems to me to be closer to a palette knife painting than one done with a brush, though hog bristle brushes were all that I used.

I really enjoy painting the surf. While I have done it before a number of times  in the studio, these pieces were  my first effort done completely from life. What a rush! I feel like I could spend a lifetime studying just this one subject...I should be so lucky.

Back from the beach

Last week my family made our annual trek to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is a trip I look forward to all year, and it always seems to be over all too soon. For this trip, I brought along my water soluble oils.  Given all of the moving and excitement we had this spring and summer, I thought I would simplify things a bit with the painting gear I chose to bring with me, and eliminate the need for carrying turpentine. The only problem with my little plan was that, unlike my first foray into this medium, I found myself struggling. A lot. I don't know if it was the humidity, the painting surfaces, my overall fatigue or what. But every painting I did all week was a complete wiper, in spite of my  most valiant efforts.  The paint seemed to completely lack body and intensity. It also seemed to do nothing but smear all over my surfaces when I applied them.

Finally on the night before the last full day, it dawned on me that I should try a more absorbent surface. When I paint with traditional oils my preferred surface is one that is quite smooth --a fine weave linen or a shellacked birch panel. It was my understanding that shellac wasn't going to fly with water soluble oils, and my linen wasn't doing the job at all. So I dug around in my supply of panels and came up with a couple of gessoed birch panels and a Pintura gessoed canvas panel and decided to throw the old Hail Mary on the final day.

Here is the  first piece I did that last day, at sunrise:

Plein Air painting of the Outer Banks, NC ©Jennifer E Young, All rights reserved

"Sunrise at Nags Head" Water miscible oils on panel, 9x12" Contact me to purchase.

Finally I painted 3 pieces that I actually felt happy with! The paint was still harder to control than my beloved traditional oils, and I had a harder time mixing the colors I was aiming for, but at least the paintings actually looked like something I could show and/or use for reference when painting larger pieces. I will post the other paintings from that day in the coming days. Stay tuned!

Clearing Sky on the Outer Banks

One of my favorite times on the Outer Banks is just after a storm. The sand is a wet, deep, ochre, the surf still churns, but the clouds begin to lift and light up and eventually give way to that brilliant blue sky. This is a painting about just such a moment.

Coastal landscape painting by Jennifer E Young, All Rights Reserved

"Clearing Sky on the Outer Banks" Oil on Canvas, 30x24


I worked on this off and on last week, though there was lots of "off" time, as my daughter and I enjoyed our final week together in "summer mode" before the start of preschool.  We sent the summer off right, with a trip to the zoo and a good deal of park and pool play as well. With all of the back to school prep though,  the home life has felt a little hectic recently. Nevertheless, we got it all done without (much of) a hitch, though I think we were both ready to return to the more normalized schedule that the fall ushers in. In a way, this painting feels a little like a metaphor for me today. The storms are (for now) behind us, and hopefully we can enjoy a nice stretch of clear skies ahead.

The dunes, once more

We have stolen away to the beach. Well, that's not entirely accurate, as with a toddler we aren't really "stealing away" anywhere any more. More aptly put: We have loaded the entire contents of our house into the van and 6 hours later unloaded it into the beach house just in time for a total melt down. Our toddler was none too happy either. ;) But somewhere around the 24 hour mark I think we all settled into a groove, and I actually got up yesterday morning and painted.

OBX painting Cape Hatteras plein air by Jennifer Young "Dunes, Early Morning" Oil on Panel, 10" x 8"

This was originally to be a sky painting, but I got drawn into the light on the dunes once more. This was painted from our balcony ( our footpath to the beach is on the left. ) It's a great spot, but east-facing, and in the morning, completely sunlit. I started this around 7:20 a.m. By 9 I was roasting and had to wrap it up. I am mobile blogging so the color is seeming a bit washed out, but you get the general idea here of the morning's attempt. (Updated image)

Postcards from the Outer Banks

This past week we stole away to the North Carolina Outer Banks for a glorious week on Hatteras Island. I had hoped to post while we were away, but I couldn't get my technology straight to do any mobile blogging. But here are two plein air pieces I completed in the early morning hours, just as the sun was coming up over the dunes. The hubby even took on full babysitting duties so that I could paint the view from our deck. What a guy!

plein air painting of the Outer Banks, North Carolina by Jennifer Young

"Hatteras Island Dunes I" Oil on Linen, 12"x8"

plein air painting of the Outer Banks, North Carolina by Jennifer Young

"Hatteras Island Dunes II" Oil on Linen, 8x10"

Island Illumination

The work-in-progress I wrote about earlier this week is now finished. This is from our last visit to Hatteras Island, in the vicinity of Avon:

Outer Banks sunset oil painting

"Island Illumination" Oil on Linen, 24x30" For purchasing info and details, click here!

Virginia is a beautiful state, but her winters tend to be predominantly gray and brown; at least that's how Richmond winters are.  Not that there isn't beauty in the subtle shades of gray, but after a while it can wear on my psyche.  I guess as I have gotten older, I have become a bit like certain plants- I can get by with less, but I need a certain amount of sunlight to really thrive.

I suppose this is why I am so often drawn to painting light-filled subjects. It just does my spirit good. And so I am taking a little mental vacation here to a beautiful sunset in one of my all-time favorite places- the Outer Banks of North Carolina (Hatteras Island in particular). In the absence of the realtime experience , I can still transport myself there through painting.

Coastal Sunset Painting- WIP

While the last work in progress I posted still seems to progress I offer you this new WIP that seems to be moving along a little more easily. I have decided to return to the nontoxic (or less toxic, any way) painting process that I was doing while I was pregnant.  Essentially this process was to paint without solvents and instead to thin the paint and clean my brushes with walnut oil.

sunset oil painting work in progress

What was formerly a struggle to me using this method now seems to be working to my advantage. Working with the walnut oil keeps my paintings wetter longer. This is a good thing for me now, as I am only able to get dedicated painting time for about 3 half-days a week. So I can now return to my painting in a more malleable state without having to feel like I need to rework everything in order to open it back up again (which is what kept happening with the Venice WIP). 

sunset oil painting work in progress

I also decided to try working with M. Graham paints again, which I had tried (unsuccessfully) to use en plein air some time ago. Initially I found them rather more fluid than I was accustomed to, particualrly for juicy plein air work that I need to have set up rather quickly. It was also a hot summer day when I last tried to use them, and what I ended up with at that time was a mushy, gooey mess. But, again, what seemed like a liability is now working to my advantage, and I am really enjoying these paints now, for the precise reason that they are more fluid and very buttery.

For this painting I am using a single primary palette of red yellow and blue plus white. For my red I've chosen Quinacridone Rose; my yellow is Indian Yellow, and the blue is my old friend Ultramarine. I am, of course, also using white, which is my favorite white and what I have on hand, made by Classic Artist Oils. It is buttery, but has a little more body to it and blends nicely with the more fluid colors. This is a really good palette, I am finding, for sunset paintings, as the colors are both rich and transparent and lend themselves to that luminous quality I'm after. And since at sunset everything seems to take on the color of the sky, using a limited palette creates a nice unity in the painting.

sunset oil painting work in progress

These pictures show the progression of my 24x30 inch canvas so far. If all goes well, I should be able to finish this piece today for a posting of the final product later in the week. That is, if I can get myself off of this computer!

Sunset on the Sound

I did bring my watercolors with me on our recent anniversary trip to Cape Hatteras, but I really didn't do much in the way of painting, save for this quick and light-hearted attempt below (done when we were sitting on the beach).  It just wasn't that kind of trip.

 watercolor of the Outer Banks, North Carolina

In fact, I even forgot to bring my camera, which is a real rarity for me! In a way it was a shame, because the B& B where we stayed had a fantastic vantage point on the sound, and provided us with some of the most beautiful sunsets we'd seen in a while. In another way, taking a real vacation to just "be", without feeling the need to work, was quite nice and very relaxing (though, believe me, there were times when the views were so compelling that the pull was strong!)

Our room had a view, so we'd sit on our balcony each evening and watch the sun set. I never tire of doing this. You can watch the setting sun from the same spot each evening and yet each time the experience is unique. It's the best show in town, and the sky seems to delight itself in its endless variations.

In the end, it's just as well that I left the camera at home, because the large majority of my amateur snapshots fail to capture the depth of color and the subtler transitions from sky to water. If not painting on the spot, the next best thing is to just sit and observe and to try and commit what I see to memory as best I can. So that's what I did. Once we got home, I painted this little watercolor from memory:

Watercolor landscape painting of the Outer Banks at sunset

"Sunset on the Sound" Watercolor, 7x10"


Hatteras Pier

It's been absolutely beautiful here in Hatteras. I've done more relaxing and eating than anything. But after watching a most gorgeous sunrise with my husband, I finally decided to get the paints out yesterday and do a little something down by the Hatteras Pier:

obx coastal painting

"Hatteras Pier, Morning" Oil on Multimedia ArtBoard 6x12"

This pier looks like it needs some serious repair, but the rickety state of it made for fun painting. Now back to doing nothing! :-)

Art auction to benefit the Central Virginia Foodbank

As a way to kick off 2008, I've decided to create auctions for some of my paintings in hopes of raising funds for the CVA Foodbank.  The idea for the auctions was inspired by a couple of things that grabbed my attention almost simultaneously over the holidays. The first was a CNN broadcast I stumbled on while flipping around on the television one late sleepless night. It was a special called "Living Heroes".  I tuned in to see a gentleman named Steve Peifer accepting an award for the incredibly inspiring, selfless work he has done in Kenya, feeding the children in school. Click here to watch the inspiring video.

About a day or two after I saw this program, I noticed Philip Rucker's article in the Washington Post online edition entitled, "Cupboards Are Bare at Food Banks." My first thought was, "Huh? With all of our wealth and resources we are having trouble supplying our country's own food banks?" The article actually focused on the D.C. Capital Area Food Bank needs, but it mentions that many of the nation's food banks are experiencing similar shortages. You can read more about it in the article,  but the bottom line is that the food banks do not have the supplies they once did, and they need people to step up and help.

I got to wondering what was going on in my own local Central Virginia Foodbank. According to the CVA Foodbank's website, in the Metro Richmond area:

"...the poverty rate is more than twice the Virginia average. In fact, in the City of Richmond it’s 38% and in Petersburg it’s 40%, compared to the state average of 17%.. That means right here in our own backyard there are tens of thousands of children who go to bed hungry every day. "

As a citizen of Richmond, I'd have to live under a rock not to know of the poverty concerns we have in the city. But even so, these numbers are startling. And while the pragmatist in me realizes that there will always be inequalities in the world, the idealist wonders,  "Why, given the earth's resources, should there ever be a reason for anyone to go hungry?"

 I've always believed in the adage, "think globally, act locally." And while curbing world hunger seems like an overwhelming task, we all can make a huge difference in our local communities by simple acts of time, food or cash donations. Surprisingly, it doesn't take that much to make a difference. In fact, according to the CVA Foodbank's website, $25 will provide as many as 200 meals.

So to bring all of this back around to the subject of art, (after all, this is an art blog,) I thought it might be nice to see if I could raise some funds for the CVA Foodbank by offering some of my vignettes in auction format.   I have been offering the little watercolor vignette paintings in my gallery and on my website for a little while now, and I've gotten some really nice feedback from collectors who enjoy them. And while I had already set prices for these works at truly introductory rates, for the next 6 months opening bids for these auctioned paintings will be set at the mega-bargain price of 200 meals, or $25 per item. 100% of the proceeds for the sale of these vignettes will be donated to the Central Virginia Foodbank.

It's my hope that each auction will get bids and that far surpass the opening bid. But even if I get just opening amount, it will generate a donation that can provide 200 meals. The CVA Foodbank is already doing some wonderful things for the folks in our area, not the least of which is providing comfort and hope for hungry kids. And, as evidenced in the above mentioned video, relieving hunger clears a pathway to learning, and education can help to provide way out of poverty.

Winning bidders get the artwork, maybe even at a mega bargain price, plus the satisfaction of knowing that their purchase is being donated to help one community's underprivileged children, elderly and families in serious need. Of course, you don't need to bid on artwork to make a difference in your own community. I encourage everyone who is able to get in touch with their own community's food bank and consider offering time, food, or cash. My auctions  are just my own small (and hopefully fun) way of trying to raise some funds and a bit of awareness.

Well, thanks for sticking with me for this rather long explanation! Without further ado, I present my first Central Virginia Foodbank ("CVFB") auction for one of my recent watercolors:

coastal harbor watercolor by Jennifer Young

"Open for Business" Original Signed Watercolor & Ink on paper Click here to bid sold

Update: This auction has ended, but click here to see the current auctions, and consider signing up for our email auction alerts using the link below.

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Thanks to for featuring my landscape paintings!

A few weeks ago, Dan at Empty Easel was kind enough to feature my plein air painting demo on his art site. I'm thankful to him again, because today he's given me a very nice a write up about the latest landscape paintings I've created for my current show  about the luminous landscape. If you have an interest in the arts, do check out his site. He regularly features the works of artists he's reviewed from around the internet, plus he has wonderful tips for art and painting as well as Internet art marketing. If you're an artist, consider submitting your work or an article yourself for a possible feature.

...And if you're in the Richmond area, my show "Luminosity" is still on view until December 1st, so come by my studio/gallery this Friday during the art walk if you can,  or just contact me to visit the gallery at another time.

One more sunset painting; Day's End, Hatteras

This painting was inspired by the recent trip I took to Cape Hatteras, located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The first day we arrived at our cottage, it was quite overcast and gray.  After a 4 1/2 hour drive, we were a little disappointed, but we remained hopeful that the weather forcast would prove to be true and that a clearing would take place by nightfall. I'm happy to say that our hopes were realized. At dusk while we were preparing dinner, one of my friends called out to me, "Come look at this amazing sky!"  I ran out to the balcony to see a procession of dark billowing clouds parading across a magnificent sky that seemed to be painted with sweeping strokes of brilliant color. As we stood gazing at the spectacular view towards the sound, I noted how the backlit beach houses anchored the scene with their simple dark shapes. Here is my rendition of that evening scene:

sunset dusk painting Outer Banks art by Jennifer Young "Day's End, Hatteras" Oil on Canvas, 24"x30" Click here or on the picture for more info!

Guest posting today

Today I'm posting about my Outer Banks paintings as a guest blogger over at the Queen of the Surf Pirates Blog. It's a fun and informative blog with the latest Outer Banks surfing info, beach news and more, courtesy of Paula Degatto and Sammy the Surf Dog from Nags Head in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Check it out, and thanks Paula for the invitation!

Blue Ridge mountains landscape painting: Lifting Fog II

Here is a painting in my "Southern Landscape" series that I've just completed. This painting shows an early morning Virginia scene of fog rising from the earth on a summer's day. I painted a smaller similar version of this scene some time ago and when I finished that one I knew I wanted to see it on a larger scale:

Landscape painting Blue Ridge Mountains Jennifer Young "Lifting Fog II" Oil on Canvas, 24x36" sold

I mentioned the other day that these last paintings I've been doing of early evening scenes are lessons in value comparisons. I can say the same for this early morning scene as well. The values are fairly close together in some cases and the value shifts are very subtle, so it can take some doing to differentiate one from another.

 The main thing I do is just to compare, compare, compare. I will mix a big load of color on my palette and dab a bit on the area of canvas that I'm working on, compare that to the other surrounding values before I commit.

Color temperature (warm vs. cool color)  as well as color intensity are other elements that help describe atmospheric perspective in a painting, especially when the values are very close together.

So, for instance, if I want to push a part of the landscape back into the picture plane to add depth, I may cool this area down, gray it down, or use less contrast (or all 3), as I've done with the above lines of trees at varying distances.

By a similar notion, if I want to push a part of the landscape forward I may use more contrast, as well as warmer, more local colors as I did in the twilight painting from my previous post.  Of course, with a blazing sunset in the sky all of this gets a little tricky, but that is part of the fun!

Sunset landscape painting; "Twilight on the Outer Banks"

Fresh off the easel is another landscape painting of my favorite time of day on the Outer Banks. The setting for this painting is again on Ocracoke Island, on a little inlet that has a small beach where you can watch the sun set.

landscape painting sunset Outer Banks North Carolina "Twilight on the Outer Banks" Oil on Canvas 24x30" Click here or on the image for more information

I am really enjoying the challenge of these evening paintings. The value ranges are relatively close in most areas of the painting, so I've really had to pay attention to the subtle differences in values and how they relate to one another. I'm still limiting my palette, but depending on what I am painting I vary the palette colors somewhat. I'll write more about what I'm discovering in my next entry.

Beach Sunrise

Today I finished a painting of a sunrise scene from last summer when I stayed at the beach in Nags Head North Carolina. For some reason I was intent on seeing the sunrise while we were there. We saw a number of gorgeous sunsets in the evenings but the sun sets over the sound and the sun rises over the ocean. So I nagged my husband to get up with me one morning and catch the sunrise over the ocean. Why I couldn't go alone is beyond me now; but for some reason, he HAD to come. Unfortunately in my exuberance we were about an hour early, so my romantic vision of togetherness under the morning sun soon turned to sitting on the beach in the dark and listening to Dave grumble and shuffle around, trying to find a spot to lie down and finish his night's sleep. Eventually, however, we were rewarded with a beautiful soft misty sunrise over the clouds. Here is the painting inspired by that morning:

sunrise beach painting by Jennifer Young


I painted this scene with a limited palette (alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow pale, ultramarine blue, and pthalo green, plus white.) This is a scene that called for using a lot of "colored grays". Colors that may even read as "mud" in other paintings, created the soft, barely there light that I was going for. At first I thought I'd have to dip into my arsenal of more vivid colors (like permanent rose and cadmium orange) to get the sunrise effect, but because so much of the painting is muted and soft, my crimson and yellow mixtures really popped. My favorite part of this scene is the way the light skips across the water.

I painted this little study en plein air, and since that time I have been wanting to create something similar, but larger and more dynamic.


I used a very limited palette on this one too, mainly because I was under such limited time constraints and didn't have time to squeeze out a bunch of tube colors. One thing I learned from this little painting is that when painting sun/sky paintings on location you really need to keep your brushes and turpentine clean. You also need to paint extremely fast. Screaming at the changing light doesn't really help, but it may possibly make you feel better.