Plein Air Painters of the Bluegrass gathered on June 5 for a Paint Out at the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Ottenheim, Ky., where members of Eunice Schlappi's family have attended since it was established in 1886.
I work with Eunice at the Department of Agriculture and she, her mother, and a cousin were kind enough to open the doors and welcome us.
Julia Anne Adams, Peggy Sherry, and Eric Johnson were among the artists able to attend.
An inspired "accident" involved one tombstone that provided a nice contrast against the white siding of the church. I was working away, dabbing it in, when I finally realized it was the burial site of Eunice's grandmother and grandfather. Now that is a nice memory for this painting. Eunice was our host, and her grandparents figure into the spirit of this work.
Below, Eric Johnson chose a farm two doors down to paint. This pro has won a number of national awards and he has been the official artist of the PGA championship at Pinehurst for the past three events. I am amazed at the generous amounts of paint he uses and the colors he achieves. He had a complete work finished in less than two hours.
Peggy Sherry painted one of three murals like the one above for Mama Delvecchio's Pizzeria in nearby Stanford, Ky. Previous owners of this downtown building are descendants of Michaelangelo. Hanging out with pros like Peggy has really helped me raise my game and improve as dramatically this year as any year I have attempted to paint.
A closeup and a different view of the church by Julia Anne Adams. Below is a photo of Peggy (left) and Julia.
Frankfort artist Betty Beshoar arranged this May Paint Out at the Latimore farm on the Elkhorn Creek just across the bank from the old Peaks Mill Elementary School.
As I continue to learn and progress, I dramatically simplified this painting to keep the attention on my focal point, the sycamore tree and its reflection.
I tried to reduce all of the background distraction or clutter. If I do a larger version or second attempt, I would darken the values in the woods behind the sycamore, calling even more attention to the whites of the tree, and I would simplify the water and temper the intensity of the green in the water.
I also would work on the foreground shape and mass of the muddy bank and the grassy knoll.
This is my effort from yesterday's Paint Out in Versailles at the farm of Flora Garner-Platt.
I am very pleased with these two hours of work because of the detail in the tractor, done without sketching and straight into the oil.
In the interest of a rapid effort, I worked on the details of the tractor first and put the background landscape and barn in later, not the easiest or most correct way to do a painting. But I did not want to end the day with an incomplete focal point (tractor).
Instead of spending another hour or two correcting this sketch, I would like to do a larger version. If I do, it will be the first time I create something at home from a live, outdoor sketch instead of a photo.
It's always good to look at a painting later, when you've rested, to notice the tweaks that are needed. Note how the tractor and the right wooden posts lean to the left. The other work that is needed is to darken the interior of the barn. The values of the post are nearly as dark as the black tires of the tractor. This would enhance the vignette effect and make the light in the background landscape pop even more, I believe.
I also want to play more with the interesting way that light streaks across the dirt floor of the barn.
But I think it is clear that I am progressing. I am especially getting faster and learning how not to get bogged down by too much detail.
So how did you spend your Saturday morning? I finally figured out how to do my first FAVE outdoor painting. I'm going to coin this new painting term, FAVE, because I haven't seen anyone mention it to condense all the key components of painting. F=focal point; A=atmosphere, V=values, E=edges.
I have collected, studied, and accumulated every book, magazine article, and YouTube how-to video about oil painting. It is easy to get overwhelmed by all the different techniques, tips, and ways each teacher does a painting.
But today's painting shows dramatic progress from my first outdoor painting earlier in the week with Plein Air Painters of the Bluegrass. That first painting never moved from the ugly stage, but it did not discourage me one bit. I'm not in a competition and comparing myself to these other professional painters who have devoted their life to this would be foolish.
Instead, I learned exactly what I could do differently. Today's painting was outdoors, by myself, at Cove Springs in Frankfort. This fantastic nature preserve, with multiple hiking trails, is only 15 minutes from home.
Here's what worked and how I made it my FAVE.
Bob Ross introduced so many people to art because of his cheerful optimism and a philosophy that there are "no mistakes...just happy accidents."
This new t-shirt was a gift from daughter Hannah and a nice reminder during my first "Paint Out" with Plein Air Painters of the Bluegrass, a group of incredibly talented artists who have their own studios, paint professionally, and don't make any mistakes or happy accidents that I can see.
None of us follows the techniques of Bob Ross. We have many more hours of practice and advanced attempts. But he is an example of happily trying to learn. It takes guts for a 60-year-old like me to move way out of my comfort zone and hang out with professional artists. But the only way to avoid failure is to avoid trying and hanging out with this kind of talent has to raise the bar for my learning.
I spent another hour at home refining this painting (shown above), and what I learned from this outdoor painting journey was immense. There was absolutely no blue in the water at Elkhorn Creek, which defies any natural instinct you might have when painting water. In fact, there was a major dominance of dark grey, spiced with a little olive green, even a little purple. I didn't make any mistakes, but I experienced a lot of happy accidents.
Most importantly, I learned so much from these 2 1/2 hours at Elkhorn Creek in Midway. On a second attempt, I would more quickly and boldly start with a dark, S curve of grey. I would block in a variety of greens, fading to a distant blue, for all of the foliage. And then I would work on a top layer of dashes of color over the dark grey underpainting of water.
My first try had too much color and not enough dark values. I think it's because of working in intense sunshine that all values are high key or too light on my palette, painting, and even observations.
This is my first post for what I intend to be my journal, notes, and lessons learned on this path to improving my art. Welcome to my art journey. I hope you are inspired to let happy accidents drive you forward to pursuing new challenges and goals.