Wednesday, July 17, 2013

40 Strokes and Counting

Little Corona; Creek Morning, 5"x7", oil on linen panel, auction here
"To know what to leave out and what to put in; just where and just how, ah,
THAT is to have been educated in the knowledge of simplicity."
Frank Lloyd Wright
What an amazing place this world of ours is, no? I've been painting this summer with a small group of friends. We chat, paint for several hours, sometimes have lunch after, and generally enjoy beautiful scenery and the joy (and agony) of painting en plein air. Last week's trip to Little Corona Beach was so fun that we went again this week. Lots of things happened.

  1. I had an idea to start our morning with a warm-up exercise, painting a simple scene on a small panel in 40 minutes. But the kicker was — only 40 strokes were allowed. Now painting an apple in 20 strokes is manageable, but how do you paint a landscape scene in 40 strokes? I picked a scene and studied it, mixed paint, got out a couple of large brushes and set the timer on my phone for 20 minutes to have a half-time warning. This was hard. I counted out my strokes, making sure to get lots of paint on my brush for each stroke, stopping to mix more paint (duh), squinting to try to capture the value the first time, since I wouldn't likely have a stroke left to correct it later.

    At about 25 minutes in, I had used up 35 strokes. I studied the scene again, trying to decide what was most important to capture. At 39 strokes and about 30 minutes, I was basically finished.

    And you know what? This is my favorite painting of the day. Definitely a productive exercise, and one I plan to do again.

    (When I got home, the painting had smudged in my wet panel box (!) and it took about five strokes to fix it. Disclosure and all that.)

    40 strokes view
  2. While I was painting, a young couple came up and asked if they could leave their things by me while they went for a swim. We chatted for a minute, and they told me they were visiting the U.S. from Germany, and had three weeks to tour the Southwest. They were on their way to the Grand Canyon, then to Bryce and Zion National Parks, then would make their way back to California, hopefully seeing Yosemite before they returned home. They were so fun, absolutely charming, and I hope they have a wonderful trip. I handed them my sunscreen to at least keep their shoulders from blistering — I guess the sun isn't quite so bright in Germany and they didn't realize how quickly they would burn.
  3. One of my painting buddies sold her painting right off her easel to a tourist from Las Vegas. What happens in Corona del Mar stays in Corona del Mar, right? How fun!
  4. I forgot my camera. Oh well.
  5. I decided to try painting something really new and not one of the usual beach scenes. Behind me was where the creek came down a canyon and flowed into the ocean. I really liked the view, so painted it. I'm not sure if I'm completely satisfied with this as a painting, but am very glad I did it. Actually, I think I like it a lot.
Heading for the Pacific, 8"x10", oil on linen panel
So no seal releases or weddings this week, but a glorious morning at a beautiful place. So thankful.


  1. I love this! Such an interesting how to adapt it for pastels? :-) xoxo

    1. Thanks, Hil — I'm guessing the same way? Plan out your approach, simplify, SIMPLIFY, and use the sides of your pastels? Might need more than 40 strokes if you want to layer to get your colors. I'd like to see you try it!

  2. Nice to see the results of your study! I'm so glad you are enjoying your "painting en plein air"!

    1. Thank you Liz — I really appreciate you "tuning in" to see what I'm posting.


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