Back in the saddle again

Flowering apple trees at G and S Orchards. Wee (9X12) and by little ol’ me.

Yesterday I painted en plein air for the first time since my cancer diagnosis last winter. Yes, I was rusty. Yes, I forgot to bring essential stuff. Yes, I was limp with exhaustion when I was done. No, I did not paint a masterpiece, but I did a nice little field sketch and learned something about young apple trees.

I’ve been fascinated with orchards all winter. This spring I made a cold call to G and S Orchardsin Walworth. The owners promptly invited my class out to paint. I went out there again yesterday and had a few hours before the rains swept back in (although the winds were high enough to do a little free microdermabrasion on my face).
I hope they don’t get sick of me any time soon, because I’ve got a season’s worth of paintings scoped out.
I’ve photographed the steps of a plein air painting for my beginning students to study before Saturday’s class. Sometimes it’s easier to understand a process in pictures.
After doing a sketch, I map the painting on my canvas. I’ve been using watercolor pencils, because they’re easy to erase, but any pencil or charcoal works as well.
Then I map out the branches (which are the darks) using a mix of ultramarine and burnt sienna. This view was a little strange because the darks were a grid, but it’s important for me to note the branch structures, even though I obliterate them for the most part.
The next step is to mix a matrix of greens. I need all the help I can get to differentiate greens in a field of identical trees in absolutely flat light.
Then it’s time to map out the color, working from the darkest to the lightest. After this, you can paint as tight or as loose as you want; the initial steps work for every finishing style.
I didn’t want to paint a global view without exploring a few trees first, but isn’t this a sweet scene?
Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me in Maine in 2014 or Rochester at any time. My Belfast, ME, workshop is almost sold out. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops!