I have been busier than usual this fall; an extra child, a painting trip, moving my studio, and the normal demands on my life as a painter and dad. So I was thrilled to get outside on a comfortable fall day for some plein air painting. It was a short afternoon, but I still had a great time with those few hours of painting. I spent most of my time on this 8×10″ panel. When working small I love the feel of an oil primed linen panel. I also love the smell and color… and just about everything about a good quality linen panel. On a small scale I prefer these panels because there’s less texture to the weave than my stretched canvas, and that gives me the opportunity to paint some smaller pieces of the scene. I can let the brush play, or put in a bit of detail.
There were two things I wanted to do with this. First of all, I wanted to capture the dramatic light on the water. Of course that also means getting good color in all of the surrounding parts of the paintings to set the stage for that dramatic light. I wanted to make sure I had rich color throughout the scene, and a nice compliment of warms and cools.
Second of all, I wanted to get the overall color structure of the scene, which I saw as a warm building against cool water and sky. There are plenty of subtle shifts in there, but the main value and color structure is a pretty simple balance of those two big shapes. Playing with strong light in a scene like this allows some room for fun within that structure too. I can look for where the glare on the water starts eating away at the pilings, and how the glow from the glare creeps into the colors around it. I could also let a lot of smaller details in the shadows fall away. When I would squint at the scene certain parts of the painting would jump forward and others would step back, and I wanted to build the painting around the most striking elements.