One of my favorite things to do it to take my watercolors outside and do some plein air painting.  It can be extremely frustrating, rewarding, educational and depressing all at the same time.  Trying to capture life in the moment is really hard but, when successful, there is really nothing that can compare to the experience.  Painting the outdoors in watercolor has really taught me so much.   My understanding of the medium improved which in turn improved my studio work.  As much as I love watercolor I have also found myself drawn to a lot of the plein air oil paintings that I have come across.  I am a big fan of Plein Air Magazine and of the caliber of artist represented in it.  Being an ambitious kind of guy I decided that I would focus this summer on my plein air oil painting and less on my watercolors.

When it comes to outdoor oils, my trusty French Easel is very strong and sturdy but I wanted to get a smaller setup so that I can paint while on vacation this summer.  I have been drooling over the pochade boxes at Alla Prima Pochade for years and after years of talking about them, my wonderful wife got me a new pochade box.  It almost goes without saying that the pochade box itself is like a small work of art.  After acquiring a few bits to make the tripod and the box fit together I was all set to get out and paint.

Last time I went out and painted in oil it was a slow process but I felt like the final results were ok.  You can see the two paintings I finished here although I should say that the second painting underwent some revisions a few months later.  (I will post it up later to show the differences)   This weekends oil painting did not come along the way I hoped.  See for yourself


Its hard for me to pinpoint exactly what went wrong here.  It was a bright morning but I feel like the painting is just too washed out.  In hind site I wish I would have darkened the shadow side of the tree to help make it feel more dimensional.  It just seems too flat for me.  I also struggled with the paint itself as I think I went too heavy too fast and then got into more and more trouble with the thickness of the paint.  All in all I went home feeling frustrated and unfulfilled.

I titled this post the highs and lows of a painter and I certainly feel that it doesn’t take a lot to knock an artists confidence.  I went from being excited with new gear and new opportunity to paint and ended with discouragement and frustration.  If I had to paint the same spot today I would handle everything differently which I guess is all a part of the learning process.  It just sucks to have to go through it some times.

So this morning I was able to complete a study for a commissioned watercolor in my sketchbook.  The final painting has been drawn out and it awaiting the actual paint on the surface.  I thought the study would be a good confidence booster as well as practice to make the final work that much better.  Here it is