Plein Air Painting Meetup


This morning I met up with some local artists for a plein air painting day. To paint “en plein air” means to paint outdoors, on location. The results of plein air painting can have a feel of spontaneity that can be harder to obtain with a studio painting. Local artist Bruce Stam is the one who informally organizes this meetup, and he’s a super nice guy and fun to paint with.

Here’s the first painting of the day. I loved the view toward the morning sun, because it makes a soft glow around everything. I started with the block in, using a minimal color palette of yellow ochre, cadmium red, and black.

IMG_7893_web - christopher clark plein air painter fine art

I paint landscapes from back to front, meaning first I paint the furthest thing away (the sky), and move forward from there (furthest mountains, closer mountains, foliage, etc). At this point I added more colors to my palette: titanium white, cadmium yellow, and pthalo blue.

- christopher clark plein air painter fine art

And here’s the finished painting. I added a single bird to add a bit more motion to the painting.

- christopher clark plein air painter fine art

“Morning at Lost Dog Wash Trail”, 11×14″, oil.

Since I usually bring two canvases with me, I decided to get started on the second painting. Hikers walking through the area kept commenting on a cactus in bloom, so I made my way over there and set up shop.

Here is a quick photo of said cactus, for posterity:

It doesn’t look like much from the photo, which is why painting from life is so important. There are so many more color and values visible that the camera will never capture.

Here’s the first block in. Again starting with a minimal color palette, the idea here is to just block in shapes and values. At this stage, all I want is the essential drawing, the value pattern, and suggested color.

- christopher clark plein air painter fine art

Here’s continuing with the more complete palette of colors:

- christopher clark plein air painter fine art

And here’s the finished painting:

- christopher clark plein air painter fine art

“Cactus in Bloom”, 11×14″, oil.

It was funny having hikers walk past me as I was starting the painting, and then have them pass me again as I was wrapping up the painting. They were generally pleased with the painting even as I was doing the initial stages, sometimes even asking “Wow, is that about finished? Looks great!” My inner response was always “Well I’ve done about 4 brush strokes, so not quite, but thanks!” Their pleasantly surprised comments as they saw the finished painting were encouraging, because sometimes it’s hard to tell if a painting is coming out well, having seen it since its first stages.

Here’s me, wrapping up the morning.

- christopher clark plein air painter fine art

Contact me to purchase either of these two original plein air paintings.

I’m starting a painting workshop in the next couple of weeks, so if you’re interested in learning some of my painting techniques, and bringing your painting ability to its full potential, check out my workshop here.

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