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Plein Air Light

Oil Painting of Reflecting Pool at Eden Gardens State Park
Reflecting Pool at Eden Gardens State Park

Joining the Emerald Coast Plein Air Painters at their weekly painting location was a short trip today.  We met at Eden Gardens State Park in Point Washington, Florida, just a half a mile from my home.   The azaleas are in full bloom right now, brilliant clusters of alizarin, rose madder, coral, and white, in a sea of green and yellow leafy trees.  Gray Spanish moss hangs from 500-year-old giant live oak trees, with resurrection-fern-covered branches so long and heavy they curl back around and down, even all the way down to the ground in places.  Magnolias, tupelos, aromatic cedars, long-leaf pines, and so many flowering plants, especially camellias, roses, and the butterfly garden flowers are punctuated by statuary, the whole of it complimenting and ready to replace the present seasonal palette of the azaleas.  Koi play between the overflowing bowls and spray feature in the large reflecting pond facing the restored antebellum mansion in the center of the grounds.

I had arrived at 9:00, which was very nearly 8:00 since we had just changed to daylight savings time this past weekend.  The early light created high contrast, with bright sunlight highlighting the east sides of the trees, the other sides colored in muted grays in the long shadows.  I painted until 11:30, but when I stepped back away from my painting to see what I had done, I saw how much the light had changed over the 2½ hours.  Gone were the muted grays, and in their place were the dark greens of live oak leaves, and the shadow underneath them had taken on a much cooler cast than the warmth I had seen in the early light.  I decided to leave the painting that way, a testament to it being painted plein air.

My Vantage Point

I walked around the park to see what the other artists were doing, and to see if they would be joining us for a critique.  When I got back to my painting which I had left fastened onto the easel support but lying on the ground, I couldn’t believe my eyes — there was a thin vertical streak going right through the middle of the azaleas, the reflecting pond, and my carefully blended grass.  I could not imagine when I had brushed against it, and with what.  Looking more closely, I realized the streak was getting longer, right before my very eyes.  There, close to the bottom of the canvas panel, was a very small worm, happily crawling through the wet oil-painted grass!  What to do?  I had already cleaned and put away all of my brushes and paints.  So I picked up a long-leaf pine needle and flicked the worm off, and then used the pine needle to drag the paint crosswise back across his trail.  I actually was surprised at how successful I was.  Within just minutes, no one could tell a worm had ever been there.
Many of the artists opted to return to work on their paintings after we finished the critique.  I made a mental note to plan on painting longer the next time I paint.  It might mean that my blog will have to wait, but it seems like I really am just getting warmed up when the session is over.  It would be to my advantage to start another painting immediately, while my color-mixing skills are at their peak, and after my eye is seeing the shapes and colors correctly.

Most of my images are available for purchase.  Contact me if you are interested. — Joan Vienot



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