Plein Air at Slavin Conservation Area

Slavin Conservation Area SouthYesterday I was able to go and paint plein air with some friends from our Spokane Watercolor Club. We went to the James T. Slavin Conservation Area just, off of highway 195, and it was really chilly 24º F, but did warm up to 40º around noon. It was surprising how close to Spokane it is. And, the conservation area covers a lot of ground (600+ acres) with a lot of different natural wonders to see. I was able to paint two sketch images while I stood on a little knoll directly in front of the parking lot.

Slavin Conserv 01First a Watercolor Sketch

I painted while looking south standing upon the first knoll near the parking lot for the first plein air image. It had meadow grasses with scattered burgundy bunches of bush, then going off into into where the forest pine and birch tree line appears. I made a rudimentary watercolor sketch of this scene, but stopped there, as my watercolors and  water were freezing. But, when the other artist’s arrived, I learned about a trick that stops that from happening. I love painting with other artists, because, you always learn something helpful from each other. If you want to know the secret, you’ll have to come paint with us to learn. 🙂

Slavin Conservation Area West
Slavin Conservation Area West
Slavin Conserv 02
Slavin Conservation Area 02

Second is an Acrylic Sketch

The second image is painted using acrylic paint on a canvas board. Standing at the same location but turned to face west where a pair of pines flanked the left side, with grasslands reaching off into a distant treeline and hill silhouette behind. These colors are a little tricky to get right, but are quite beautiful when it comes out right. Neither of these plein air sketches are any way near finished, but the scenes are embedded in my mind and I am sure I’ll be able to finish them in my studio.

I am not up to strenuous hiking, but thankfully this area is easily accessible with parking close by so it was a totally rejuvenating day. Being able to paint with other painters has revitalized the artist in me. It was surprising how many people walk their dogs there. There is also evidence of a lot of horse hoof prints on the trails. In about a month, that whole field is going to be covered with wildflowers, one of the local ladies told me .

EYE CANDY SURPRISE!

Next month sounds like a great time to schedule another plein air painting trip there. Yep, I’m looking forward to it.

 

Huckleberries love-at-first-bite

I love huckleberries

Living in the Inland Northwest has given me the privilege of loving huckleberries every year. I look forward to every summer being able to go pick them. Climb up the mountain and taste just one, and you will be hooked-for-life! They are a divine, sweet and tart taste that can only be understood by experiencing the flavor, yourself. There is no better berry on the planet, they taste so darn good! Literally, it is a shame that huckleberries are not able to be grown commercially.

privilege |ˈpriv(ə)lij|
noun

a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people: education is a right, not a privilege | he has been accustomed all his life to wealth and privilege.

Huckleberry Know How

Do you know your edible wild berries?

Lately, many thoughts of these berries have resulted in me doing a series of studies in the studio. I thought I’d share some recent watercolors of these magical fruit delicacies with you. Grabbing two small pieces of left-over 300lb Arches watercolor paper measuring 6″ x 5″. I draw close-ups of bunches of berries, showing how they look when I go to pick them. Then, using mastik to reserve light areas, I begin experimenting.

HuckBerryTrioStudyI2719_1
Initial study of a trio of huckleberries in watercolor
HuckBerryTrioStudyI2719
6″w x 5″h watercolor study of a trio of huckleberries

Huckleberries

These berries are dark smooth little guys with a gorgeous purple color that sometimes show as a magenta in the sun or almost black in shade. Noticeably, they have a very unique bottom that is a little dimple inward with a dot in the middle.

HuckBerryFiveStudyI2619_1
Initial 6″w x 5″h watercolor study of five huckleberries
HuckberryFiveStudyI2619
6″w x 5″h watercolor study of five huckleberries

Lighting and colors vary a lot for these bushes under the big trees of the forest. Consequently, I try backgrounds in different values and colors. Sometimes, we are in bright sunlit blue-sky areas where the green leaves almost look chartreuse in color. Here, the background is dark when the look of the brown ground kind of mixes into the leaf color.

Tree Perspective

initial tree sketchMy thoughts were on tree shapes and how the weather affects perspective values as I drove up the mountain. Distant trees almost disappear into the softness as we travelled the road through some pretty thick fog this morning. As a result of the poor visibility, we had to go real slow until we got about half way up the hill and then we broke through the fog layer. Surprise! Brilliant sun greeted us, with everything sparkling and lightly frosted, which was absolutely gorgeous. We pulled into the resort and unloaded tools.

Sometimes, it is hard to figure out what to start with. When that happens I start on the first thing I see. This morning that was, sketching the first tree in simple impressionistic shapes then adding a cast a shadow. Quickly placing the rest of the trees on the wall gives me a good idea of how this will be looking.

trees in wall A

Check Out Real Trees

chair one fog
When in doubt take a look at reference material. Taking a coffee break we walk outside and take a peek at a real trees on the hill before we paint any further. It is always really neat to look at the real colors of nature. The chill was noticeable and another layer of heavy fog was drifting down from above, making everything real quiet. Here is the view from the bottom of chair one where Max and I admire the hill. Winter is on the way!

Using a mixture of natural colors along with primaries, I continue to fill-out tree bodies. Colors used include burnt sienna, umber, white, and mixtures of the primaries of yellow, red and blue. I quickly add little cast shadows on the snow from the tree trunk bases, and almost instantly don’t like it. When I step back I realize that I am also not getting the depth that I want yet. Everything looks as though they are at about the same “depth of field” (the same distance away from me) so I need to do something different. treeline full greens

Perspective in the Trees

trees gray green whiteStarting in again working on the tree perspectives using greys and white much more boldly. Immediately we begin to see remarkable results. There is a real distance accomplished by adding greys. It is astonishing to me, how this change in value really makes the tree take a step back in space. As I add more greys I am being careful to reserve enough dark forest green shadows in each tree. I want to feel as though I can reach into the branches and touch a trunk. Using a lot more white on other groups of trees gives an occasional “frosty the snowman” surprise tree in the mix.

trees with no shadow

Are you a sharp eyed individual?

You may have noticed missing cast shadows on the foreground. The shadow lines just seemed too busy and not to serve any purpose. Thank goodness I am using wall paint latex, so I can eradicate errors easily. By the way, artist’s are allowed to change their minds.

Scary Weather Prediction

We just had a hundred year storm with 70 mph sustained winds. It wiped our electricity, phones etc for over 100,000 homes and business’s causing quite a bit of damage and a few deaths in our Inland North West Region (Washington). We had no utilities for 8 days here in Elk, some locations waited 2 weeks.

I drove a backroad route through the farms and suburbs to town and am surprised at how many homes are still missing roof shingles and quite a few homes with trees laying on them. The contractor and roofers are sure busy and investing in stock for the hand warmers they must be going through. Gotta get repairs done before the real cold sets in and the snow pack arrives.

Guess what? It has been raining a lot and now another storm is heading our way (60 MPH winds). It is truly scary when you know how many trees are around with nice soft ground.  Arrrgh!

When we went to town shopping last week, the stores had not even been able to restock yet what was wiped out in emergency stuff. Supplies like batteries, candles, stove fuel, oil lantern fuel/parts, propane tanks, gas cans. Bet the generators are running short too. They told me maybe next week so I better head in to town in the am to get what we will need, if we have to dance the same dance again.