Painting Plein Air with an Extra-Long Filbert Brush
This blog post could be subtitled, “Where did November go?”
Soon after my show, “The Present Moment”, opened at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet, I received an email asking if I would paint, plein air style, a view from the balcony, for some second-homeowners to hang in their “first” home in Tennessee. I met with them, to visit and to look at their view of the coastal dune lake, Redfish Lake, and the Gulf of Mexico. They gave me a few favorite photos, with morning light. A day later, they sent me a photo of wind-driven clouds that they liked, and I started to work on the 24×36 gallery-wrapped canvas, with a 16×20 practice piece on the side. The day before, I had painted with the local plein air group under the very clouds my clients had photographed. So the scene was familiar enough to me that I was able to work from the photos and still have the feeling of being there. I have nearly finished it and have posted photos below showing both the practice piece and the actual larger commissioned piece. I have a few tweaks yet to do, especially perhaps darkening the tile roof on the gazebo.
Yesterday our plein air group met at Henderson Beach State Park, in Destin, Florida. I painted with an extra-long filbert, size 7, made by Winsor & Newton. The filbert, which I have sketched at left, is about 1/2″ wide, but the bristles are 2″ long. I had bought it about 6 months ago, just to try out, but had never used it. Last weekend I watched a painting demonstration on DVD by Frank Serrano. I was inspired to try painting an entire painting using only one brush, and I thought, why not the extra-long filbert!. So when our plein air group met at Henderson Beach State Park, in Destin, Florida, this week, I chose a scene which could easily be simplified, so that learning the brush would be my only challenge. I grew to like the brush as I painted with it. The extra long filbert holds more paint than an ordinary brush. Because the bristles are longer and thus not as stiff, it required me to lay color onto the canvas instead of scrubbing it as I sometimes do with stiffer brushes. It was perfect for the texture of the fall-colored grasses on the dunes.
The day was gray, without direct sunlight, and the mist during the drive had dried up by the time I had set up my easel on the boardwalk to the Gulf. A light breeze cooled it to a balmy 72°. I painted fairly quickly, the scene complicated only by the structure of the dune walkover. I had to use a small rigger to paint the walkover, but I used the extra-long filbert everywhere else. The values and colors were muted by the indistinct light. Because I had arrived about 40 minutes late, I worried that I would run out of time. But I felt the 8×10 painting was finished after only about an hour, so I tried another, smaller one, 6×6, and wrapped it up fairly quickly too. I started a third painting, 8×10, and gave myself the challenge of looking directly at the highlighted Gulf, sparkling white where the sun was peeking out of the darkening sky. It turned out quite a bit more dramatic than the first two, because of the heightened values. At right are the three paintings. Silver plein air frames show them off nicely. I have priced them for sale but may keep all three for my own collection.
If anyone did not get a chance to see “The Present Moment”, many of the pieces will remain at Grayt Grounds of Monet Monet, and some will be lining the stairwell on the way up to Bob and Cheri Peebles’ real estate offices on the second floor of the building, at Beach To Bay Realty.
Below is the not-quite-finished commissioned piece I was writing about, and below it, the practice piece where I worked out solutions to the problems I encountered along the way.