Plein Air at Torreya State Park, Bristol, Florida

September 1, 2013 in Landscape, Plein Air by joanvienot

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Guerilla Painter

 Oil painting of Apalachicola River through the trees from the bluff above
 Oil painting of the hillside by the campsite overlooking the Apalachicola River
 Oil painting of grasses beside the campsite overlooking the Apalachicola River

A few weeks ago I bought myself a toy, a “Guerrilla Painter” thumb-box, which is a small wooden box that opens into a plein air panel holder and palette and brush and paint holder.  The box fits into a small carry case and has a hole in the bottom for your thumb so you can hold it like a painter’s palette.  It comes with one 6×8 gesso’d hardboard panel, and I also bought 10 resin-impregnated 6×8 cards to paint on.  I primed the cards even though you don’t have to, so I would be painting on a familiar white surface.

I thought a camping trip to a local state park might be the perfect opportunity to try out my “thumb-box”.  A friend had made reservations at the best primitive campsite Torreya State Park has to offer, and Friday afternoon found us backpacking the short one-mile trail to set up camp.  I also had packed my full plein air set just in case i didn’t like the Guerrilla Painter, so I carried it in on the next trip when we went back to the truck to get water.  My full set has arm straps and a campstool attached, but no hip belt, so you carry the whole thing on your shoulders.  It became very heavy on my shoulders, so getting a hip belt is now a high priority!

I had never camped with painting being the sole purpose to the trip.  My friend took off for a hike each day, and I was left to paint to my heart’s delight.  I tested the Guerrilla Painter, using a limited palette, only 4 colors and white.  At right are the three 6×8 pieces I did.  I used less paint than I would have on a textured canvas.  I learn something on every painting I do.  The first day I was determined not to use green straight out of the tube, even though I was surrounded by green in the forest.  So I mixed some greens using of course blue and yellow, but I also put blue next to yellow in many places, to give the illusion of green.  On my third painting, I painted the grasses near the edge of the campsite sometimes using red instead of green.  That interested me — I may do a series.

There was one challenge I did not resolve, when painting with the Guerrilla Painter.  I use my left hand to hold my rag or paper towel, to clean my brush, but holding the Thumb-Box with my left thumb meant that I had to hold my rag between my index and middle fingers, wiping my brush without being able to see it underneath the box.

The second day I opted to paint using my standard plein air easel and full paint set, since I had gone to the trouble of packing it in.  I usually end up using a limited palette anyway — it helps to tie the painting together, because the same colors get used in many different places.  Below are the two 8×10’s I did with my regular set-up.  This time I mixed a lot of different greens, but attempted to keep most of the foliage details a little vague.  I felt if I was distinct with the tree trunks and branches, they would explain the foliage.

 Oil painting of Apalachicola River Bluff campsite 1
Oil painting of Apalachicola River Bluff Campsite 2