Winter Sunset complete

This morning I finished up my snow painting, the start of which I blogged about in my last post. Here is the final:

Winter sunset landscape painting by Jennifer Young, All rights reserved"Winter Sunset, North Run Creek" Oil on linen, 16x20" Click here for more info. To purchase, please contact me.

This was one of those paintings that I was excited about from concept to finish. It had the feeling of a sunset, a snow painting, and a nocturne, all in one. I actually didn't want it to end.

I experimented with a new blue on my palette, which I am really enjoying--Indathrone Blue (Grumbacher). It's really a versatile and beautiful color.  It's along the lines of a Pthalo Blue, though not nearly as highly staining. I find that both Pthalo blue and green can easily take over a paint mixture with anything beyond the tiniest touch. (They also seem to have a way of getting all over me very easily!) Indathrone is different. It's transparent, less intense than Pthalo but "cleaner " than Prussian Blue, and very versatile to work with. I used it in various mixtures throughout the painting, but you can see a good bit of it in its purest form (tinted with white), in the frozen section of the creek on the lower left.  I doubt it will take the place of my tried and true Ultramarine, but it's a nice addition to have on the palette, and I can see a lot of potential for its use in still life and nocturnes.

Let it snow

Here in Richmond, VA, we aren't used to getting around in the snow and ice. At the first hint of snow in the forecast, people storm the stores, and stock up on bread, milk, eggs, water,  booze, etc. (you know, all the staples) . In fact, many times the shelves are picked clean.  As for the schools, even a dusting seems to shut them down. In fact, I joke that the whole city shuts down if someone has dandruff. Last week we had about 6 inches, and school closed for the entire week. Granted, there were a few days of below freezing temperatures as well. Everything melted nicely away (finally!) and then this week we had another two days out from snow. Well, the snow might not bother Elsa, (or at least that's what I have heard many, MANY times during our little break) but as much as I love building snowmen, it sure puts a wrench in our routine after a while.

It is pretty though, I'll give it that.  So today I decided to embrace what is instead of wishing for what isn't. And here's the outcome of that shift in mindset. For this 16x20" canvas, I am referencing  photos I took right about sunset during our first round of snow as we were on our way for dinner out (because the roads were totally FINE).

Snow at sunset landscape painting by Jennifer E YoungWinter landscape painting in progress by Jennifer E YoungWinter landscape painting in progress by Jennifer E Young

I  apologize for not getting better blow by blow photos of the progress, but I  was on a roll. I almost made this a completely alla prima piece, which felt soooo great,  but (cut to the sound of a needle scraping across a record)  I ran out of time. I think I had a very good start though, so one more session before it sets up too much ought to do me.


This was a bit of an experiment for me. I pushed the color and moved things about quite a bit, and worked in a much more impressionistic style. I played with layering color and working more with broken color to achieve the shimmering effect I was after. It's definitely more about expression than about straight on  realism.

Impressionist landscape blue ridge mountains by Jennifer Young "Illuminated" Oil on Linen, 24x30" Click here for more info. Contact me to purchase!

This was in part because my photo reference was very washed out, yet I remember this time and place so much more vividly and with much more richness in color and brilliance.  I had painted a small study on site during a summer trip to Nelson County, Virginia, but couldn't finish it because the light of the setting sun changed so fast and quickly disappeared behind the trees and mountains.

I'm not sure if I will continue in this vein, but I feel as if I have learned something. Here it is in grayscale, which I actually might like a little better (LOL.)


It makes me want to experiment with it again, with a different color palette, to see what happens.

Holiday sale

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, full of family, friends, and fun! I am so thankful to all of my collectors and subscribers to my newsletter and blog! Plein air study of the OBX coastline by Jennifer E Young

Once you have had your fill of Thanksgiving dinner, please consider shopping for a special gift (at a special price) on my "holiday studio sale" page I have created on Etsy. These small original paintings are mostly local plein air studies and oil sketches, and therefore not marketed through retail galleries. Painted in the moment, they are fresh and lively and great gift sizes, either for yourself or someone special. This is a limited time offer, ending December 17th (just in time for Christmas!)

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.

Little things

My painting (and posting) has been so sporadic lately that there are times when I am tempted to just announce a summer hiatus once and for all. At least this way, (I say to myself) I can engage myself fully in mothering an already active baby (who is soon to be an even more active toddler) and I won't have this anxious, "torn between two worlds" feeling when I can't make it to the easel (or produce anything noteworthy when I do). But the hubby doesn't think this is a good idea, and doubts I'd be happy with not painting at all, if even for a couple of months. He's probably right, but that still leaves me with trying to figure out how to enjoy the time I have in these two seemingly opposing life roles, without the anxiety I sometimes have that I am not doing well enough at either one. So I was taking my baby out for a stroller ride not long ago, and ran into a neighbor, who is also a mother, and happens to be a very fine artist. We have exchanged pleasantries a few times, but this was our first actual introduction and chat. We spent a good deal of time talking about the ups and downs of being both a working artist and a mother . We talked about finding the time and the peace of mind to be fully engaged in both roles, and perhaps most importantly, to enjoy the process along the way. I asked her if she felt that her work had changed as a result of having had a child.

"Oh yes!" she replied, "For quite a while I had to paint a lot smaller. "

This may sound like a punchline, but in fact, it makes a lot of sense. Before the baby, I had become accustomed to painting small in the field and using my studio work to develop my ideas and studies into larger scale works. As a landscape painter, my feeling was, why paint small landscapes inside if I can paint the same small scale from life?

But at present, plein air opportunities have been few and far between, so often it is studio work or no work at all.  While I never really paint HUGE, I have struggled with my studio sessions, as they are both shorter in length and spread farther apart. Often enough I have found myself spending a good deal of a studio session just trying to get the painting opened up enough to start working on it again...just in time to clean up!

So, it makes sense, for the next little while, to try and work on a few small things. They may not all be landscapes, (and who knows? They may not all be oil paintings) but at least I will still be doing something.

So that is my commitment to you, dear reader. I will do something instead of nothing. And furthermore, I will post it here often enough so that you know I am still alive. How's that for an inspirational statement of purpose? Sorry, but this is the best I can do right now. ;-)

Even if it's just a little thing, it will hopefully keep the creative juices flowing, and perhaps make it easier to develop some skills that need brushing up, or to experiment with various designs, compositional choices and different color palettes. In the very least, I will get the satisfaction of having finished something!

Tuscany landscape painting olive groves

"Evening Light, Tuscany" Oil on linen, 6x12" Click here for more info, or just contact me to purchase.

Ciel Dore

Here are the final images for the French landscape painting-in-progress I've posted about recently (see the progression at this link and this one.)  As I mentioned before, at this stage in the game, my main "statement" has taken shape, so  it is all about refining the idea. It might not be evident in the previous photos, but when I returned to the easel to finish the painting, I felt that the greens in the grass and shrubs were looking a bit too light/bright and slightly too cool for the quality of the light I was aiming for. So the first thing I did was to warm all of that up to give it more of that late evening sun-kissed feeling. Next, I worked on the shape, shadows and highlights of the foreground shrubs:

France landscape painting in progress by Jennifer Young

Followed by some subtle shading on the pigeonniere and refining the edges of the background shrubs:

France painting work in progress Jennifer Young

My final decisions have to do with working out the shadows and highlights in the clouds to give them form. I was really reluctant to go back into the sky because I liked so much what was going on there and I didn't want to mess with it too much. But, given the state of the rest of the painting, I felt that it really needed some further development. So I took a page from the lessons learned from my abstract expressionist art school days. Namely, that one should not hold any single portion of a painting as "too precious" if it doesn't benefit the painting as a whole. I also have made minor alterations to the shapes of some of the clouds, and warmed up the sky at the horizon, because it was feeling a bit too cool for a sky that had so much warmth in the clouds.

France landscape oil painting by Jennifer Young

Here is the final. I kept the composition simple because I really decided to push the color in this piece and make this a sky painting. Since I was working from composite images and memory rather than from life, the challenge was to make the light cohesive with the drama going on in the sky. I feel like I've gotten a pretty good representation of what I set out to achieve, so I am happy with the outcome.

French landscape painting of the Lot Valley by Jennifer Young

"Ciel Dore" (Gilded Sky) Oil on Linen, 20x24" Sold!

Pigeonniere W.I.P. (continued)

Here are a few more progressive shots of the French landscape work-in-progress that I posted about last time. Since I have to spend a bit of time cropping, resizing, and uploading each photo, I again don't have much time to write if I also want to paint today. So let's hope the pictures will be at least a hundred words. ;-) Developing the clouds:

french landscape painting demonstration by Jennifer Young

french landscape painting demonstration by Jennifer Young

And the pigeonniere:

France landscape painting in progress by Jennifer Young

Now I will spend some time refining (working on edges, tweaking shadows, developing highlights, etc.) The challenge for me is usually at this stage--to refine/change but to still keep it fairly loose and avoid overworking. We'll see how well I do in today's studio session!

Pigeonniere W.I.P.

I am short on time today, so this post will be short on words (rare, I know!) I do have pictures to share, however, of my current 20x24" painting on the easel. The plan is for this to be a larger, more developed version of the plein air piece I did in France (shown here) with more of the sky featured. Compositional sketch:

France painting work-in-progress by Jennifer Young

Tonal sketch:

France landscape painting in progress by Jennifer Young

Sky lay-in (first go):

France landscape painting in progress by Jennifer Young

Ground and shrubs lay-in:

France landscape oil painting by Jennifer Young

France landscape painting in progress by Jennifer Young

Now the fun begins! :-)

Shadows of La Crete

I achieved my goal of finishing up this painting last week, but it left no time to post. This is the final product of the resurrected work-in-progress I last wrote about.

 Tuscany landscape painting by Jennifer Young

"Shadows of La Crete" Oil on Linen, 24x30" Contact me for details and purchasing info!

The Tuscan region known as La Crete is known for its dramatic undulating hillsides. I loved the way vineyards and olive groves were cultivated clinging to the slopes. One afternoon while we were staying in southern Tuscany near Montalcino, my husband and I took a drive through the winding roads of this stunning landscape. We spent the day driving, stopping to walk around, lunching and sketching (well I did the last bit). No plein air painting there, but it was still such a great day!

Now that I have the wee one and I'm on a very different (but awesome) journey, I am not sure when I will get back there to La Crete. But I'd really love to go back and dig into some plein air painting one day. Nevertheless, I am grateful to have been able to go at all, and to have taken so many good reference photos for my studio work.

Over the years I have learned how to take better reference photos. When I first started landscape painting I'd really be disappointed by the lack of information I'd gathered from a trip. It seemed like I'd take a ton of photos, but often what I found when I came home was that I'd only have one shot of the most intriguing scenes. I learned from those experiences to take a number of shots of each location, from several angles, at several exposures. I also took close up "detail" shots of foliage, flowers, textures, etc. It still does not compare to the information that becomes seared into my brain whenever I can photograph and actually paint on site at a location, but it helps a great deal. My photos don't really do justice to my memory of this beautiful land, but hopefully through my paintings (if I do enough of them) I will be able to express how I feel about this place.

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!

Gold Rush

I mentioned the other day that I'd made a couple of sequential painting visits down at the James River near Belle Isle. This is the painting from the second visit. Just a view of nature this time, which shows the diversity that this one site allows:

plein air painting of the James River at sunset by Jennifer Young

"Gold Rush" Oil on Linen, 11x14" Contact me for purchasing info!

 I've painted this scene before, but I haven't gotten enough of it so I've experimented with a slightly different angle and format. I also pushed the color and handled the brushwork somewhat broader and more impressionistically; probably in part because I decided on a whim to return and once I set up and changed my mind, and set up again in a different spot (this happened a few times) I didn't have much time to capture the light that I wanted. I started right around rush hour, but the golden glow came closer to the end of my session, hence the title.

Bathers on the James

I've taken two more two more plein air trips down to the James River of late, and this piece, done near Belle Isle is the result of the first. This is a study done alongside a painting buddy of mine, from the vantage point of the Civil War museum park, looking up at the CSX railway tracks.

plein air painting of the James River Richmond VA 

 "Bathers on the James" (study) Oil on Panel, 9x12"

With angle of the light and the architecture of the bridge, I didn't get much further than a study. But I feel that this scene is destined to become a larger, more developed piece at some point soon. Initially I was attracted to light of early evening as it slanted across the track footings and bounced in the water's reflections. But as we were setting up, groups of  bathers descended on the scene. What luck. I knew there were lots of swimmers in the evenings nearby on Belle Isle, but I didn't realize how many people have come to use this part of the park (right across from the Civil War Museum) after work. Even though in this painting I merely suggest just a few of the figures (and they are barely there- only about an inch and a half high) in life they had a much greater presence and gave a very dreamlike quality to the scene before me. Everything happened so fast, so I just did what I could to try and catch the light and overall structure of scene, not getting caught up in the details but committing them to my memory. It seemed like just as soon as the bathers appeared, they disappeared into the ethers (right along with the fading light.)  I've already returned to the same spot at the same time in order to take photos in hopes that I can do these bathers justice in a larger work.

Dusk Approaches

If you're tired of French paintings, don't read this post! I've been on a roll. Here's another one of the Dordogne, with my favorite light and a play of long shadows:

landscape painting of the French countryside with poppies

"Dusk Approaches" Oil on Linen, 20x24" sold

The paint is thick and it's still a bit soft, but if it sets up enough to receive a retouch varnish, I may include it my show of French works that opens next week. This new piece was done on a rather rougher weave linen than I'm accustomed to using, but since I'm trying to economize, I'm working my way through the art supplies I have on hand (rather than just ordering more of my 'preferred' materials.)

The linen is a quality product, just not as fine a weave as I normally like; so up to now these canvases have been collecting dust. It came stretched and pre-primed, but I did add a couple of extra coats of gesso beforehand (with sanding in between) which helped to smooth the surface a little. But still its grip on the paint was significant, so some use of the palette knife came in mighty handy.

One of these days I will do a serious update to my website and post my new paintings there as well. But in the meantime, please contact me for purchasing info.

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"


Willow in back-light

This week is bringing us some gorgeous weather here in central Virginia, so on the way home from the farmer's market last night, I took a detour and decided to keep a recent promise that I made to myself. I returned to Young's Pond to paint the evening scene I'd scouted out when I was there the prior week for a morning painting session:

plein air landscape oil painting by Jennifer Young Willow in Back-light" Oil on Canvas, 12x16" Click here for more info!

Having already conceptualized what I was going to paint in advance, I set up quickly and dove right into the painting. It was a good thing, too. Even though I started relatively early in the evening (5 PM) all of that beautiful back-lighting did not last. After about an hour and a half, the sun sank quickly behind the trees on the distant hill, and took all of that beautiful backlighting with him!

Luckily I got the painting about 90% complete. As I later told my husband, "I had the essence but not the poetry". This is what I hoped for as I worked on the final 10% immediately after I returned home to the studio (while everything was still fresh in my mind). Mainly it was just a matter of softening some edges and adjusting a value here and there, (and trying not to do too much for fear of losing the essence!)

12x16" is not a huge painting, but it's the largest I've done in plein air in a while. One of my goals (goal number 274!) is to increase my plein air sizes beyond 12x16" or even 16x20". With more canvas to cover, it may require multiple visits to the same site at the same time of day, but it would be interesting to see how far I could push it. We'll see...I have the whole summer ahead of me yet.

p.s. I've finally uploaded the info for the previous plein air painting I did at this location last week. Read the details for that work here.

Frayssinet Village painting- final edits?

I started this painting some time ago and it's taken me longer than I'd like to bring it to a satisfactory end. I generally dislike having long periods of stops and starts between painting sessions because I end up "oiling out" the painting and I run the danger of losing that freshness that comes with alla prima painting. But we're in the final stages of finishing the new studio so I just have to deal with the back and forth for a little while longer. (BTW, "oiling out" is when you wipe on a thin layer of diluted medium to help a partially dry oil surface better adhere to subsequent layers.)

village painting of southern France by Jennifer Young

This is a 24 x 30" painting of the village of Frayssinet, my "home base" for my plein air painting trip last summer. Photography issues continue, so at least on my monitor the color is a little dark and contrasty and the sky is too yellow and has lost the gradations of pale blue. 

Photography issues aside, the photos do give me a chance to again take a "step back" (something I mentioned before I can't manage to do in my temporary painting space.) With a new perspective, I am considering changing the figure. Right now the proportion makes her a little lost in the painting.

One option is to make her bigger. A quick edit in Photoshop makes this happen. (If only it was that quick and easy in actuality!)

French village painting Jennifer Young

The other option is to take the figure out altogether:

Jennifer Young landscape paintings of France

Of course, the second edit above would be the simplest option and it's not a bad solution. I'm leaning towards changing the figure, however, as she does add a bit more interest and  focal point.  Yeah or nay? No edits? Or edit #1 or #2?

Back in the saddle (WIP)

Or rather, I'm back at the easel (I think.) At the risk of jinxing myself I'll say I'm painting again. It's pretty slow going though, as I've been fighting a cold and sore throat. For me, painting is a bit like exercising. Get out of the habit for too long and  I start to feel a bit like a (flabby) fish out of water. It's also been a while since I've done any kind of painting indoors, so I'd thought I'd get started by just having fun with lots of color and a manageable sized canvas (20x24").  Because  this is a scene attempting to evoke a pasture (southern France) struck by the golden glow of late afternoon, I started with warm colors right from the get-go:

 French landscape painting WIP

It has been too long. It's not that it's really taking me forever to paint this, just that I'm still pretty easily distracted. The shell of the studio is pretty much complete, save for a few adjustments (photos to come). But we've a long way to go before the inside is in move-in condition, and I'm anxious to get it DONE. 

To whoever suggested that angst is good for creativity-- sorry, I didn't get the memo! (Obviously  I didn't get the memo about patience being a virtue either.) But since it looks like it will be at least December before I can move in, I might as well try and get a little painting done in between all the hand wringing, eh?

I'm off to IKEA for most of tomorrow (Monday) to see what they have in the way of sinks and shelving,  but I hope to have this piece completed by Tuesday or Wednesday. Here's where I've left off:

Southern France landscape painting WIP

Golden Hour on the James River

Miracle of miracles, I actually painted something this week. I decided to stave off the moving insanity by paying a restorative visit to Brown's Island for a little plein air painting on the James River:

 Plein air painting James River Richmond VA

"The Golden Hour" Oil on Multimedia ArtBoard, 9x12" Click here for details.

Brown's Island is not too far from my current downtown studio, and painting there the other evening really made me appreciate anew what a uniquely beautiful  wildlife refuge we have running right through the heart of our city. Just down stream, cranes and geese were resting and fishing on the rocks, creating an interesting counterpoint to the cars zooming across the nearby Lee Bridge and the train trestles that loomed directly over my head.

Remnants of old pilings and bridge footings (like the ones shown to the right of the foreground trees in my painting) also served to remind me that this location was the industrial heart of Richmond's recent past.  Today Brown's Island is a lovely part of the James River Park system that feels both wild and urban at once. It's also a popular venue for outdoor concerts and festivals like the upcoming Richmond Folk Festival. (Reminder Richmonders--the festival is this weekend! Tents are already being raised and lots of work is being done in preparation, so don't forget to come out and support this event!)

As for the painting, I painted this scene in the late afternoon/early evening time frame. When I started I didn't notice the bits of red that were in the trees. It wasn't until the sun got a little lower and lit up the trees just so that the brilliant burst of autumn reds revealed themselves. That's one of the joys of plein air painting--these kinds of little miracles unfold before your eyes as you witness the evolutionary effects of light in nature. In these days when I seem to be going a mile a minute, I'm all the more appreciative of the experience.