Sunday, March 27, 2016

Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Let the paint-outs begin! My first paint-out of the season, and my first ever, was with PAWA (Plein Air Washington Artists) at the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in Nisqually, WA. The refuge is a 3 and 1/2 hour drive from my house, one way. I left my house at 6 am. and returned at 10 pm. It was a long day but totally worth it. I painted at a beautiful spot and got to meet a few people.

I am used to wetlands but this time of year the refuge is full of migratory birds, local birds, and birdwatchers from around the world. Yesterday there were plein air painters out there too. When I arrived, I poked around a tiny bit looking for people with painting gear. I am new to the group so I didn't know anyone. I did see a few folks with what looked liked painting gear heading out here and there. I grabbed mine and found a spot, out of thousands, to paint. Looking toward Puget Sound the Olympic Mountains were showing in all their glowing glory. I decided to try for a grand vista with the mountains in the background. I was glad I took a few minutes to prepare a preliminary sketch as the clouds were moving in. I also painted the mountains and sky in right away since I knew it would be changing fast. Here is a view of my easel and a bit of a view of my surroundings:

I was out of step with most of the group so I missed the lunch gathering while finishing up the painting. Fortunately, I wasn't the only one so I got to eat lunch and chat with another artist. After eating, I headed back to another spot that I had noticed when walking to the car for lunch. I loved the colors of the spring growth on the distant trees. They were nicely framed by the dark, evergreen trees behind and the water-logged grasses in front. I had several Canada geese keeping me company.

You can see a pair of geese in the distant upper left hand corner. They actually spent most of the time a few feet from me.

Looking the other way are a pair of beautiful old barns. I was sorely tempted to paint them too. Perhaps another time.

Finally, a closeup of the final afternoon painting. Both paintings will need a bit of work in the studio before I would pronounce them finished. I will probably keep both for studies for now. This week the sun will be coming out again. At least, that is what the weather app reports. I am continuing to work on skills in the studio: drawing, brushwork, values, composition, still life, and painting faster.

In two weeks, I will be heading out to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument with PAPO. I am looking forward to painting there and meeting more people!


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Two Beautiful Days

©2016 R. L. Delight, Short Sands Mid-March, 9"x12", oil on linen panel, plein air.

The weather gave us a bit of a breather at last! The first nice day I headed out to my favorite spot, Short Sands Beach. I am always interested to see how much the storms have rearranged the beach. It definitely looked like it had some wild moments during the storms. Due to the time of day and the position of the sun this time of year, I decided to turn and paint the south end. The afternoon light gradually lit the cliffs as the sun swung around toward the evening. 

I had a fun time painting the light on the cliffs. This is a study and I was trying to get as much information and feel of the day as I could. I am planning to use this as reference to paint a larger studio painting from. One of my goals this year is to start painting larger studio landscapes using my plein air studies.

The following day wasn't quite as nice weather-wise but still a good day to get out. We had another windy storm coming in that evening. I decided to go a bit further up the road to Hug Point. It has been a while since I painted there. The cliffs at Hug Point are an interesting combination of basalt and sandstone. There are many caves that have been carved by the waves. There were many noticeable changes due to erosion from the last time I was there.

This was a bit more challenging spot due to the tide, which was still receding, and the many visitors. It is spring break in the Pacific Northwest. I had forgotten about that and wasn't quite mentally prepared the the number of people that stopped by. I admit, I had isolated myself as much as I could with a cave at my back and Fall Creek in front of me. People still crossed over and one young couple even asked me to take a picture of them in front of the falls while I was painting!
The composition was a bit challenging as well but I really liked the contrast of the light on the falls and the dark sandstone pinnacle behind it. The pinnacle has been slowly changing over the years we have lived here. The first time I saw it, there was a tree that was slowly dying at the top of it. Here is my study:

© 2016 R.L. Delight, Fall Creek Falls, 10"x8", oil on linen panel, plein air

This isn't quite finished as the session was cut short. I mentioned an incoming storm due that evening. I had a nice sheltered spot from the stiffening breeze but one of the many challenges about painting here on the northern Oregon coast are the sudden shifts of wind. The wind shifted suddenly from a northeast direction to east. It blew away some of my brushes and my turps cap while I grabbed my tripod easel. These winds give no warning. Sometimes I have been lucky to be facing the water when they shift and I have a few seconds warning as I see the wind blowing up the water while it is coming at me. The shifty winds are also why I rarely use my plein air umbrella on the coast. It was snapped in pieces the first two weeks I had it. It had no defense against the combination of corroding salt water on the connecting parts and sudden squalls.

A nice young girl who was playing on my little painting island rounded up my pieces while I hung on to my easel. I decided to pack up and head home. The final highlights still need to be painting and I need to cool the light behind the pinnacle to push the cliff behind it a bit further back. Again, I was trying to get as much information as I can.

The weather for this week shows rain everyday. That is OK as I will be back in the studio working on studies and practicing my skills. It is also time to clean out the studio a bit and sell off some of the paintings I have around that need to go. I am running out of space! I will be posting those soon!


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

In Like a Lion

I thought I might title this post "Waking up and Getting Out" or perhaps a "Long Winter's Nap" since it has been a while since I have posted anything. I have had a much needed break from blogging while I take care of my personal health.
It does seem like it has been a long winter here in the Pacific Northwest. This past week we have had two major storms with hurricane force winds blow through here. This winter there has been flooding, landslides, sinkholes that shut down Hwy 101, the main road that goes along the coast, thunder, lightning, hail and fury! I took the above photo yesterday during my morning walk on the beach. I love the wildness and I get out everyday!

I have also been learning to love being in the studio this winter. It took me a while. We were so spoiled last year with such a warm winter, unlike the previous winter in the  Eastern part of the country. I was able to spend a lot of time painting outdoors last winter. I am finally getting the hang of using this studio time for purposeful study. Here is a recent study:

© 2016 R.L. Delight, Study in Textures, 6"x6". oil on panel

These are not the best photos as I was experimenting with several things such as mediums and paint handling on this study. It is a bit challenging to photograph until it dries. I have also been drawing and have gone out a few times when the weather breaks to paint plein air. I made a recent trip to Bend, Oregon to visit family and had a chance to go to Smith Rock State Park to paint. Oh my! What a stunning place! So different then the coast but no less beautiful.

Here is my plein air study. I was very much overwhelmed but I have enough info to do finished painting from this study:

© 2016 R.L. Delight, Smith Rock State Park Study, 12"x9", oil on panel

Finally, the "getting out" part. I am so excited this year to be joining two wonderful groups of plein air painters. I have joined the Plein Air Painters of Oregon (PAPO) and the Plein Air Painters of Washington (PAWA). I have several opportunities to get out to paint several incredible spots with these groups. Starting next month, I will be painting at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument for a weekend at the Clarno Unit,, with PAPO. May will find me at Stehekin, WA with PAWA for a weekend. I cannot tell you how excited I am to get to both of these spots, particularly Stehekin. After having lived in Washington for 25 years, it will be my first time there. I have always wanted to go there and somehow never got around to it. I will also be heading up to a paintout in a week and a half at Nisqually, WA with PAWA as well as a fantastic trip to Mt Baker/Mt Shuksan in the fall. I will be get getting over to the Olympic Peninsula to paint. There will be paintouts with PAPO as well sprinkled in here and there.

No worries! I won't be neglecting my little corner of the Oregon Coast either. I will be getting out every chance I have and spending stormy days studying in the studio. After this past week of brutal wind storms, the next few days will bring a bit of almost-spring sunshine. I will be getting out and posting the results so stay tuned!

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