I recently finished this painting, begun en plein air, in Yosemite, during my stay as a Yosemite Renaissance artist in residence and I thought I’d walk you through its various stages from start to finish.
As many of you may have heard, during my residency, I invited many of my local artist friends to come up to the park and paint with me. This whole trip came together quickly, but even with short notice, 7 of them were able to make it. On this, our last day, 4 artists were painting with me.
Anderson’s Cabin, is located in Pioneer Village, in Wawona, a collection of historic Yosemite structures from all over the park, brought together in one location to form a little trip back in time hamlet. There are many great structures to paint there, but we all decided on this one on that particular day.
I started this outdoor painting, as I most often do, with an ink blue turpentine wash (50% painting medium, 50% solvent) underpainting. I find shadows outdoors tend to be cool, so the blue is a good choice and since I always work from dark to light, using the one color prevents me from having to mix multiple dark colors, prior to getting all my darks blocked in. Mapping the scene lighting out quickly is critical in plein air painting, as the light changes very quickly. Not having to mix multiple dark colors significantly speeds the process.
With the darks laid out, I quickly washed in general area color, prior to roughing in opaque paint. That way, if I miss tiny patches, known as holidays, with the opaque paint, they don’t show, the underlying canvas having been pre-tinted. With my darks down in ink blue, I begin adding medium value opaque colors, then lights and finally start replacing the ink blue dark wash with dark colors of the correct hue. Here’s the painting at the end of my 4 hour, on location, painting session.
I’m rarely happy with the final result of my plein air sessions and generally either work into the canvas back in my studio or use the painting as a color sketch for a larger studio painting. I’d committed to a show of the works we produced during the week, so, in the interest of time I’ve decided to add more detail to the actual plein air canvas this round.
Reviewing the reference photos I shot on location, I realize that in painting the roof I painted out all the shadows from the trees. During this first session in the studio, I begin returning the shadows to the roof, add dark grout to the chimney and lines separating the individual logs that make up the walls of the cabin. I also finalize the sky and clouds, since everything else will be painted over this.
During my next session I finish most of the detailing to the roof (I found I needed to add light values, as well, in order to get the shadows correct), I begin to detail the log walls of the cabin and start adding back branches (painted out by the sky) and foliage to the trees behind the cabin.
Another day and it’s about working the values on the chimney side of the cabin. I needed to adjust until that side of the building looked like it was truly in shadow. Detailing the stone chimney, including adding the light that hits its stones here and there was a bit tricky, but I finally got it to a point where I was satisfied. I realized the ground shadows, there in the morning, but painted from memory, at the end of the day, were wrong, so I changed those.
Through a couple more sessions I detail the foliage and trunks of the trees.
One last session of final details, including the detailing of the rock border around the grass in front of the chimney, takes me to the finish, shown at the top of this post.
I popped the painting into a floater frame and took it wet, along with the other finish (El Cap & Dogwood) and plein paintings I created during the week, over to Gallery 5, so I could help Jon Bock install the show. The show is titled, “A Week in the Park: Plein Air Works by Trowzers Akimbo & Friends.” It’ll be there through June 22, 2017.