Day 11 of the Strada Challenge.
A week ago, I decided that September 11 was the last day of my personal challenge. Fortunately my day job has been keeping me very busy and I just couldn’t fit in all that needed to be done in a day and still get enough sleep. I’m past the point in my life where I will exhaust myself just trying to keep up. That lifestyle was for a younger version of myself.
I went back down to the lake to begin the plein air painting of the log that I had sketched the day before. I set up my easel and sat on a rock that became quite uncomfortable after awhile. I was squeezed in between rocks and it was difficult to get up and move around, so I just sucked it up and kept going. When I’m in the creative zone, I often don’t feel the discomfort until my body can’t seem to take it anymore and lets me know.
The first step in painting is to “block-in” the main elements in a value (light or dark) that approximates where I want the painting to end up. In this case, I blocked in the main trunk of the log, the shadow areas on the beach, the background hills and mountains, and the lake colors. By observation, I see that the blue/teal colors of the water change to olive green as it gets closer to the shoreline. One can see the rocks through the shallow water which changes the color in the foreground. The rays that you see coming down from the top are the sun’s rays shining onto my canvas. I had to get up and adjust my umbrella to not only block the sun but also the reflecting glare off the water. Another challenge for an artist.
Here is my easel set up and my tray of colors and tools that are instrumental. My sketch from the day before is at the ready to use as reference for the painting. The value chart is used to compare values from what I’m seeing in the scene to my painting for better accuracy. The little gray square in the lower right is a view finder. The center square slides open to create a frame to hold up at the view. I use it more for the little hole that I can peer through to get a more accurate view of color in the scene that I’m painting. The hole isolates a specific color from anything surrounding it which can confuse the eye. My pastel sticks that I’m using in the painting. I try to stay with just a few colors so that my painting maintains color harmony. In this case I stayed with purples, warm greens, aqua shades, and warm orange tones.
By the time I was finished with my session for the day, about an hour and a half had passed. I hadn’t completed the painting but I couldn’t sit on that rock any longer. I knew I still had quite a bit to do, so I decided I would finish on the following day. At this point, I had started refining the values on the main elements, making the hills and mountains in the background lighter to push them back, getting the color and progression of the water more accurate, establishing the log’s position and size relative to the other elements and roughing in the rocks.
John was kind enough to shoot a short video of me in the midst of my creative immersion that day. Unfortunately the next day, the wind picked up and brought in a lot of smoke. Although we had gone down to the beach, me with the intention of finishing the painting, the conditions deteriorated so quickly that I didn’t even attempt to set up. The smoke was so thick without any hope of it clearing out and I knew it was here to stay for awhile as it was coming from the huge fires in Oregon and California. I realized I would have to finish the painting in the studio from my resource photo which I did in a couple of sessions.