Note: This is a four part plein air painting demonstration of my painting "Vineyard Patterns".You can see the rest of the demo at the following links: Part II, Part III, Part IV (conclusion). 1. Step one: Choose a scene.
I often head out to the Virginia mountains to do some plein air painting, and on a morning last week I visited Veritas Vineyards in Afton Virginia. This is a beautiful winery and there are many possibilities for painting subject matter. However, my umbrella broke and I hadn't yet purchased a new one, which can make painting on location in an open field a bit difficult. If the sun is shining directly on your canvas, all you see is a bunch of glare and your paintings end up turning out way to dark and muddy as a result.
Having said that, I can't stress enough how important it is to take the time to choose a scene that excites and interests you. You have a better chance of producing a much better painting as a result. Luckily I came upon a nice shady spot in a private area off of the main road past the winery's tasting room and became excited about this scene:
Okay, so it loses something in my photograph, perhaps! But what I liked about this scene was the abstract shapes and patterns formed by the sweeping lines of the vines and ground. The light was constantly going back and forth behind cloud masses, making painting with consistent lighting very difficult. But that is the fun challenge of painting on location!
2. Lay out the design.
My paintings usually begin very inauspiciously, I'm afraid! All I want to do at this point is plan my layout and get the elements of the scene down in very abstract shapes.
As you can plainly see, I have to work quickly with the changing light, so I don't do a lot of detailed drawing. In fact, I'd say I do far fewer details in the plein air drawing stage than I do in the studio, and if any one were to come upon my painting at this stage they would hardly be impressed! But the marks mean something to me, and I guess that's what matters. In the coming days I will continue to unfold this plein air painting demo, so stay tuned!