Painting Outside (Finally!)

plein air gear

This spring has started me cursing Mother Nature, weather guessers, and anything else that I can possible blame the extremely wet and gray weeks on. It seems that every day I’ve tried to go out and paint it’s either snowed, hailed, rained, or all three.

So, I was really happy to see a little bit of sun today, even if the temperatures never got into the 50′s, and I spent most of the day hanging out on the side of a mountain.

I went to Dry Canyon near Lindon, Utah, a spot I’ve never been to before. I found it by looking at pictures people posted on Panaramio. (This is my new favorite way to scout a location without knowing anything about it.) When I arrived I was the only person there for about an hour and I explored a little by bushwacking down to the supposed-to-be-dry creek bed which had a torrent of running water. (I hope that lets you know how wet it’s been, it is named Dry Canyon after all.) I also walked up the trail about a half mile and saw some cool spots with overhanging cliffs called The Blue Gates, but on coming back down to gather my gear I stepped over to the side of the foot of the mountain and saw this composition which I thought was better.

Mouth of dry canyon
Mouth of Dry Canyon

I was thinking of showing a little demo but I got caught up in painting and I forgot to take more pictures, so I only got the lay in, the halfway mark, and where I called it a day.

For the lay in I tried Stapleton Kearns’s trick of using cobalt violet. It makes a lot of sense since cobalt violet is not a strong color and can be easily painted over or mixed in without affecting later colors, and as the one-of-a-kind Mr. Kearns pointed out in one of his posts, it’s great for underpainting shadows.

dry canyon painting lay in

I took a different approach than I usually do this time. Usually I like to tint the whole board to get rid of the white but this time I built down from the top with color leaving unpainted areas white. I can’t say I recommend this approach as judging colors becomes harder.

After the wind knocked over my umbrella and tripod four times, even with my paints hanging from it to lower the center of gravity, I gave up on the umbrella and just squinted a lot as the sun reflected up at me.

This is a little farther along than half way but it was about halfway time wise. At this point I’m trying to just get the right colors in the general shape and place they belong. I’ll have to come back later to refine them a bit more. I stopped for a quick lunch, (sharp white cheddar sandwich yum!) and that’s when I remembered I hadn’t taken a photo in a while.

dry canyon painting halfway finished

In the middle of all of this random cars started driving up to the dead end dirt parking lot a couple hundred yards below me and driving through mud puddles and doing donuts in the dirt and then driving off. When the first car started doing this I though some crazy guy had stolen a car and was out for a joy ride, but then more and more cars came one at a time and I didn’t know what to think. My best guess is that it must be some sort of local spot to go off road, or maybe the best car wash in town is run by a dirt Nazi and he won’t wash your car unless it’s really dirty.

By this time my feet started hurting and my Achilles tendon was tired of being stretched from standing on a slope, and worst of all the clouds had moved in, so I called it finished.

dry canyon painting final

I’m not sure if I will work on it a little at home, or if I will make a larger one using this as a reference, or maybe do nothing at all.

Stapleton Kearns