I went plein aire painting Sunday. I decided to paint a friend’s house in Old Town Alexandria. The sky was clear and the weather was cool – to- cold with quite a breeze at times. It was a gorgeous day to be outside.
The advantage to painting my friend’s house is that it’s one block off of the tourist area. There was foot traffic and quite a bit of road traffic but I was able to get quite a bit accomplished.
I do need to say that this is only my 4th plein aire painting, I learn a bit more each time I go out.
Most of my friends who paint have said painting outside is very similar to painting the figure. You do initial sketch, very quickly get in your darks (very important since the light is constantly changing), do initial color lay down and then get to work.
I paid attention to the distance between the windows, where the shutters were as well as the dormers. I also lay in the first indication of the shadows on the roof. The color is raw umber thinned with gamsol. I used an 8×10″ oil primed linen canvas Mine were purchased from Raymar they are double oil primed linen).
I learned for my florist shop that painting a building full on didn’t help to make the painting interesting. That I should approach it from an angle. So I selected a spot about 30 degrees off from center. The view allowed me to include a pretty magnolia tree on the right side of the building. I included a small strip of the grey building next door. Frankly I am not certain that was wise but it helped me gauge what went were so in it stayed.
I used a thinned burnt sienna with some raw umber mixed in for the building, I darken the shadows with more raw umber, laid in the brick wall with burnt sienna and raw umber. The magnolia tree is all raw umber and the grey building to the left was created by mixing raw umber with ultramarine blue and white. The sky is a thinned cerulean blue.
It always amazes how bright a color will seem (especially on a white panel) when you first lay it down and then how quickly it quiets down. Seeming this has made me a little less nervous about color with the human figure.
So, the windows were blocked in with a dark grey using raw umber and ultramarine blue. Same for the black of the shutters. I had no idea how to translate the color of the roof. The shadows were a really rich dark and the roof was black to start with but with the intense sunlight on it it seems a brownish/greenish black. I left it as is.
My friend lives across the street from a large business building. When I first started painting I could not see the reflections of the building, I could later once the light changed. I found it interesting that I could see the reflections of the building in the photos I took with my camera but not with my eyes.
I am not certain if including this building in the reflections was wise, but it was there and since it’s part of their daily view I felt it helped keep the painting real (in context to the site). Ok, that sounded a tad stuffy but hopefully you understand what I mean.
Over all I think I did ok. I even snuck her cat into the picture which wasn’t accurate but I figured she’d love it. It’s pretty small so you wouldn’t see the cat unless you were looking for him.