Friday, May 24, 2013

Plein Air painting demonstration for Dixie Watercolor Society

My good friend and fellow artist Myron Laub asked me to do a quick plein air painting demonstration at the monthly paint-out of the Dixie Watercolor Society this week. He chose a wonderful spot on the edge of Green Springs near St. George with a grand view of the red cliffs and Pine Valley Mountain. My job was to show how I approach the subject of sage brush in watercolors.
  I started by explaining how our artistic eye is drawn to the lightest light against the darkest dark as we find edges and shapes in nature. I showed how the morning light distinctly outlined the edges of each sagebrush and showed the soft whispy structure of the plant against the dark shadow side of the bush behind it. I did a fast pencil value study to show how it works, then launched into a quick quarter-sheet demo in watercolor. Following my demonstration the others in the group retired to their individual painting spots and went to work creating their own images.
My plein air demonstration painting for the Dixie Watercolor Society

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Southern Utah Art Guild Paint Out at the Red Mountain in Ivins, UT

Me with my finished painting
I'm always looking for a good excuse to paint outdoors, so when the Southern Utah Art Guild announced a plein air paint-out near Snow Canyon I jumped at the chance. A few faithful members gathered at the top of 300 East, which stops at the foot of Ivin's big Red Mountain. I was a little late due to Saturday morning chores, and some of the artists including Royden Card and David Hansen had already  got a good jump on their paintings. Art event guru Bobbi Wankier and SUAG president Michael Foot were there cheering us on and snapping photos of the artists at work. Bobbi's husband Erric Wankier worked on an amazing pastel painting while I worked in watercolor.
Roland Lee 5 x 8 watercolor study of the Red cliffs done on location during the paint out
She decided to shoot a short video of me painting for publicity purposes. Ever the teacher, I decided to do a step-by-step instructional video as long as I had a willing camera person. So I proceeded to explain how I chose the view, sketched out the scene and built up the glazes in succeeding values to the finished piece. Of course the painting was small, and I painted a little faster than usual so as not to bore the viewers. But it turned out okay. We'll probably post the video on YouTube at some point.
Erric Wankier with his pastel painting of the cliffs

Monday, May 06, 2013

Plein Air Painting in Zion Canyon

Painting from this lovely spot, we enjoyed the view of Mt. Moroni and the rush of the Virgin River falls in Zion National Park.
Painting outdoors on location can be difficult at times. The focus of a recent workshop was learning how to identify a good subject in nature, and how to adapt to the changing light and shadow. The first day we worked from a wonderful shady green spot in Snow Canyon near St. George Utah, then traveled the second day to Zion National Park where we chose two pastoral spots to test our skills.
Everyone enjoyed a different set-up for painting on location
Showing off the results of our quiet morning's efforts

The first objective in any outdoor painting effort is to narrow down what you are looking at, to find something manageable in the time you have. Begin with a quick thumbnail value study to isolate the subject matter, and give yourself a roadmap to follow. Since the light changes by the minute, it is necessary to follow your sketch as you begin painting, establishing the shadows quickly, and sticking to your plan even though the scene constantly changes.

It helps to keep your painting small, under 11 x 14. I feel comfortable completing an outdoor painting in about an hour and a half. Anything longer than that, and you may as well be in the studio because you are making up just about everything anyway. I was pleased with our efforts as I feel like we captured the essence of both canyons in watercolor.