We came across this scene on the third day of my Steamboat Springs Plein Air Workshop. The setting was perfect - this old cabin with the pink hollyhocks growing up the side. Surrounded by aspen trees, pine trees, and tall grasses, it was so tempting to include everything but that can be problematic when painting on location because the light is always changing and your time is limited. I asked myself what attracted me to this subject in the first place? It was the gorgeous hollyhocks against the old weathered wood of the cabin so I narrowed my focus down to just that. Now I had a subject that I could complete before there was a dramatic change in the sunlight. I also knew that I could do another painting later that showed the cabin in the trees. This is such a captivating subject I know I will return to paint it again from a different angle and a different time of the day. I can just imagine how it might look in evening light at sunset.
I started with the window because I wanted to catch the cast shadows on the curtains before they were gone. I used different shades of gray mixed with cerulean blue and cadmium red light. Next I moved onto the hollyhocks and used cobalt violet for their pink color. I also added mineral violet on some of the flowers to give them depth. For the leaves I used olive green and mixtures of different yellows and blues. It was important to paint the leaves in three different values to give them volume. Now all that remained was to paint the weathered boards and add a suggestion of foreground grass.
I made sure that all the boards were darker than the flowers and leaves and I used my smallest brush, a number 6 round, for this more intricate work. The danger of trying to include too much in a plein air painting is a lesson I learned the hard way. I remember well the frustration of not finishing and even hurrying as the light changed. Once I learned to narrow my focus, a viewer is helpful, plein air painting became more enjoyable and now I get more paintings that are actually finished on location. Summer will be gone before we know it so get outside where subjects abound and the light is the best and do some plein air painting. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton