Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Plein Air, actually outside

Deer Island Plein Air Sketch

Part of why I failed to make more significant progress on Slater's Mills, yesterday, is because I went with friends to paint at Deer Island, in the Merrimack River, between Newburyport and Amesbury. Knowing that there would be long grass along the shore, I chose to tint an 8" x 16" canvas a reasonably strong shade of burnt orange (Old Holland Transparent Red Oxide).

At the site, I spent about an hour on the grisaille. As you can see, when I wiped out several bits I got right back down to white canvas. Usually I would let the tint dry overnight, and then paint in the field on a dry canvas. But this time the spontaneous decision to go to Deer Island precluded that. We work with what we have, oui? 

Nonetheless, because I didn't want the still-wet orange color to mix with the other colors which I would subsequently use, I decided to stop at this stage, and to wait for the surface to dry before I really began to paint.

This morning, it was entirely dry and I could begin to get some real color onto the canvas in the studio. If you're wondering why I wrote that I chose the orange tint because of the long grass, have a look at the post a few days ago about sgraffito. I knew that I could get some of the texture of the grass, warmed as it was by the afternoon sun, by scratching through my top layers. The newly-revealed, thin orange lines would give the effect I wanted.

There's still some more to do in the studio, but this begins to tell the story of this section of the Merrimack on a lovely July afternoon.

Happy Painting!


  1. Great idea for doing grasses, which is a week area for me. Loving this color, Donald! Is it easy to get? I used Burnt Sienna as an under painting and my fall scene came out nice showing it off some.

  2. Great post Donald! I have reddish prepped board in the bag which I was afraid to use plein air. Now I am raring to go. I love how that orangy glow appears on the underside of the clouds as well. Just one small question, if you will permit: what paint did you use for the grissaile over the tint or is it all add and substract with the same base colour?

    1. Hi, Bruce. The grisaille was just my usual, an ad hoc mixture of ultramarine and burnt umber. Don't let the red dismay you!