plein air

Osage Orange Tree at River Farm


Osage Orange at River Farm, April 2013

 Osage Orange at River Farm

Yesterday was another "summer-like" day here in the mid-atlantic region, and I was determined to head out and paint en plein air at my favorite place, River Farm, which is along the Potomac River and also happens to be the headquarters of the American Horticultural Society. This site has some of the most beautiful gardens in the area, and it seems like every week something new is in bloom.

This painting was completed in a garden of mostly shade loving plants. The large tree that provides most of the shade for this area is an Osage orange, and was my main focus of the painting. This particular tree has been recognized as the largest Osage orange in the United States by the National Register of Big Trees in 2011, and is estimated to be 200 years old.

20130411 WIP-Osage-Orange

I blocked in the painting with burnt sienna, focusing on the pattern of light and shadow.  I forgot to bring my umbrella for the easel to keep direct sunlight off of my painting surface, so while painting I really tried to keep the main idea of the play of light and shade on the tree and how the brick wall was a dark shape that framed the garden.

Rural Virginia

{How the painting looks matted and ready to pop into an 11” x 14” frame}
{approx 5” x 9” (12.7 x 22.9 cm)– oil on gessoed paper }
Click to purchase
Matted painting: SOLD

Great Falls {en plein air}

20120531 PRS 29 great falls.jpg

Potomac River Series 29 - Great Falls

{approx 5" x 9" (12.7 x 22.9 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

When creating art, I find I am totally focused on the present, in tune with my surroundings and eager to understand and know what is before me better than I ever have before. When I go outside to paint, awareness grows stronger in me and I feel invigorated and inspired with life.

Yesterday a friend and fellow artist reminded me of a quote by Eugene Boudin

"Everything that is painted directly and on the spot has always a strength, a power, and a vivacity of touch"

I think this belief in the strength of being in the moment and interacting with it as an equal participant applies to all aspects of life. By being present and involved the sense of self grows.

I hope this post inspires you to engage in your world and to find areas where you can interact in a direct method, just like painting on location.

Starting up the Potomac River Series again...

Potomac River Series 28
{approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

I am will be starting up this series again this summer, and this is the first of many to come...


Here is a recent photo of Naomi {she turned 10 months old yesterday}, we were out for a morning walk and it was a bit crisp...

Potomac River Series at Great Falls National Park


Potomac River Series XXIV
{approx. 8" x 12" (20.3 x 30.4 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

On Saturday I met up with two friends to do a little painting at Great Falls National Park, the day was crisp and sunny and perfect for painting.

Like most other painting excursions I brought Naomi with me and she seemed to enjoy observing all the visitors that came to the park.

Plein Air Painting: Potomac River Series at River Farm


20111006 Potomac River Series 26
Potomac River Series XXVI - River Farm
{approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

Today was a beautiful day! Which meant that Ann, Naomi, and I went out to do a bit of painting, this time we met at River Farm along the Potomac River.

I am having to become a "quick draw" artist because even though I was out there for almost two hours I really only got about 45 minutes total to dedicate towards painting, my "little helper" kept needing attention.

{our setup}

For this painting I blocked in the drawing using perm. alizerin crimson, which is a great foil for all the greens that will end up being in the painting. To create a sense of atmospheric depth I laid in a deep red/purple underpainting for the background trees.

{Naomi all cozy}

{all packed up to head home}

Naomi's stroller also doubles as a pack horse, where I sling some of my plein air supplies on it, so I do not have to physically lug much around, which works out well...

Paint Annapolis Dueling Brushes Paint Out


{Naomi and me standing in front of my entry}

On Saturday (October 1st) I participated in the MAPAPA Paint Annapolis Dueling Brushes paint out. It was the first time I participated in a timed quick-draw plein air event, and all participants had 2-1/2 hours to complete their painting en plein air and then bring their work to the city dock for judging.

{some photos taken at the city dock}

First Plein Air Expedition...


{my painting setup and Naomi in the background}

Today was our first plein air painting trip, that is Naomi was in attendance. We met up with a friend for an afternoon by the Potomac River.

The weather turned out great, nice temperature and breeze, and no bugs!

20110929 Potomac River Series 25 {Potomac River Series XXV - approx. 7" x 5" (17.8 x 12.7 cm) - Oil on Gessoed Paper}

And while out I did manage to grab an opportunity to paint! Initially it did not seem like it would work out, I had set up my easel and paint, when Naomi decided she was awake and wanted attention. She eventually settled down and I was able to make the most of what time we had left before needing to leave to beat the rush hour traffic.

Plein Air Painting: this week's excursions


Hello, Here are the paintings from this week's plein air excursions. I know this weekend will be full, so I do not plan on going out to paint.

20110630 Potomac River Series 23 Potomac River Series XXIII - Old Town SOLD {approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

It was the brightness of the creamy house constrasted with the verdent greens of the trees and hedges that captured my attention, so I worked on trying to capture the nuances of the colors and values found on the house and in the trees. I particularly like how Colin Page paints buildings, he manages to capture all the subtle color changes in a wall plain, thus making what could be a simple and boring block of color into something dynamic.

20110630 Potomac River Series 24 Potomac River Series XXIV {approx. 8" x 12" (20.3 x 30.4 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

Yesterday we were back on the river, it was low tide and the air was particularly hazy. I have come to love the hazy mornings of the DC region.

Since working on this plein air project of capturing various views of the Potomac River between Mount Vernon and Old Town I have been scouting out other plein air artists that have blogs. Here is a short list of artists I have enjoyed learning more about.

. Colin Page . Marc Hanson . Terry Miura

Do any of you have other recommendations? I would love learn about other plein air artists that blog and add them to my daily reading...

Thanks, and have a wonderful weekend! Liz

Plein Air Painting: Last week's excursions


Hello, This week has flown by and I regret that in the evenings I am so exhausted that sharing last week's plein air paintings has not occurred until this afternoon.

The pregnancy is coming to an end and with it I am also trying to tie up loose ends, this includes lots of errands, shopping, cooking lots of freezer meals, and finalizing details of the nursery. Exciting times are ahead, however I am also trying to get as much painting in as possible knowing that I will take some time off to care for the little one when she arrives.

Here are last week's plein air studies:

20110628 Potomac River Series 19 Potomac River Series XIX {approx. 8" x 12" (20.3 x 30.4 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

The morning my friend and I went out painting was perfect, the weather and light was best so far since I began this project. The sky was full of dramatic cloud formations unfortunately I did not try to capture them right away when I started this painting, so by the time I got to them the sky had cleared. Lesson learned -- if there is something that really captures my attention, focus on that area first, the other areas can wait!

20110628 Potomac River Series 20 Potomac River Series XX {approx. 8" x 12" (20.3 x 30.4 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

Often I strive to paint two paintings when out, and I felt lucky that I was also able to get this one in. Because I had lost the clouds by now, I decided to zoom in on the shore some and to work on depicting trees and atmospheric haze.

20110630 Potomac River Series 21 Potomac River Series XXI - Old Town {approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm)) – oil on gessoed paper}

We decided that moving into Old Town for our next plein air excursion would be a good idea, this way we can become comfortabel with including some buildings into our skill set. As all of these paintings are studies, I have decided if they really do not get off to a good start, or that at some point they veer off course, I will stop and start a new painting. This is what happened with this study, I realized that I was painting the house, not a painting, so I stopped and started another one.

20110630 Potomac River Series 22 Potomac River Series XXII - Old Town SOLD {approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

This study is my second attempt at painting a street scene. At one point I nearly gave up and started a new painting, however my painting partner encouraged me to keep going and I am so happy she did, because I was able to finish a vignette of Old Town.

So far this week I have been out painting twice and will share the paintings with you tomorrow. I do not think I will be able to get out and paint outside again until next week...

Thanks for stopping by and reading :)


Plein Air Painting: Potomac River Series



Time is flying by and I wanted to share with you the plein air studies completed last week. So far the comfort level of painting outside has been increasing and I am continuing to find ways to experiment and explore...

20110622 Potomac River Series 15
Potomac River Series XV
{approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm)) – oil on gessoed paper}

With this study my goal was to zero in on an area of the shoreline, working on defining the middle ground with the most information while minimizing the detail provided in the forground and background, creating a sense of distance using value and detail.

20110624 Potomac River Series 16
Potomac River Series XVI
{approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

It got a bit enamored with the two trees in the foreground, spending time on depicting the various vines and leaves that were growing on them.

20110625 Potomac River Series 17
Potomac River Series XVII
{approx. 8" x 12" (20.3 x 30.4 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

This study is double the area of all the previous studies, I was curious to work on this new size.

The sky was particularly beautiful when we got to the river's edge.

20110625 Potomac River Series 18
Potomac River Series XVIII
{approx. 8" x 12" (20.3 x 30.4 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

Later in the morning the dazzling cloud formations and roses had left the sky, however this provided an opportunity to work on painting tree shapes and the reflections in the water.

Plein Air Painting: Potomac River Series



Here are the paintings created during the third week of June.

20110614 Potomac River Series 09
Potomac River Series IX
{approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

Even when being by the river different scenes will capture my attention, and the way the leaves glowed yellow in the morning sun was something I wanted to try to capture.

20110617 Potomac River Series 10
Potomac River Series X
{approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

We have had a lot of overcast and rainy days lately and a lot of my focus this week was on trying to capture the fleeting impressions of the sky. In Carlson's
book on landscape painting he encourages you to work from memory, and I think trying to paint the sky as the clouds are constantly changing is pretty close to painting from memory because you have to work from an impression that changes immediately, so if you want to keep the initial composition of how the clouds were, you are engaging your memory.

20110617 Potomca River Series 11
Potomac River Series XI
{approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

Another sky study, with the clouds getting more threatening...

20110618 Potomac River Series 12
Potomac River Series XII
{approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

After the past few attempts of painting trees I decided to check out a few other landscape artists I admire and see how they block-in and paint trees, this study was incorporating a technique I read about in Kevin Macpherson's
book on page 58.

20110618 Potomac River Series 13
Potomac River Series XIII
{approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

Another sky/cloud study.

20110618 Potomac River Series 14
Potomac River Series XIV
{approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

Another sky/cloud study, sometimes I deliberately know what I am going after and try to achieve it, however with these two studies, I just wanted to experiment with shapes and edges.


I thought you may be interested in seeing my setup when working outside at the picnic tables that are in the park areas along the Potomac.

This is the simple setup where I head out only with my cigar box pochade and other equipment, like brushes, turp jar, and paper towels. The square piece of card board has been shellaced so it can handle multiple applications of tape that attaches the sheets of gessoed watercolor paper.

Setup with Cigar Box Pochade

Working in Plein Air: Potomac River Series



Here are the plein air studies completed from last week. My goal is to get out and paint 3-4 times a week, last week I was able to go out three times, on Sunday I was out for an extended time so two studies were completed.

I also switched over to using gessoed watercolor paper as my painting surface, it is an easy surface to paint on because the cold pressed watercolor paper has a bit of a texture and the gesso provides a level of tooth for the paint to grab onto. Another benefit is that because I gessoed several sheets of paper, I feel free to explore and experiment with out concern about wasting a canvas panel or the need to wipe down the painting when it does not work out. With the gessoed paper I will have a timeline that records progress.

20110606 Potomac River Series 05
Potomac River Series V
{approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

With this study I was working on the gradation of the sky along with the atmospheric graying of the distant trees and shore.

20110608 Potomac River Series 06
Potomac River Series VI
{approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

When working in plein air I often block in my drawing using aliz. crimson, so sometimes the thinned red will peep through.

A few days before I headed out to paint the last two studies of the week I spent an afternoon reading through Marc Hanson's blog Painting My Way Through Life. Back in April 2009 Marc Hanson set a personal goal of completing four paintings a day en plein air for the entire month, that is for 30 straight days, he called it a "painting marathon".

I visited every blog post of that month and read about his experiences, it was so inspiring... I guess in a way I am trying to do something similar but a lot more open ended.

20110612 Potomac River Series 07
Potomac River Series VII
{approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

Before beginning this study I had set a goal of trying to complete each within an hour, and I wanted to make sure my composition was more of a vignette, giving a specific impression of a scene that captured my attention.

I did not complete this in my time limit, however the play with fore, middle, and back ground was a good exercise.

20110612 Potomac River Series 08
Potomac River Series VII
{approx. 5" x 7" (12.7 x 17.8 cm) – oil on gessoed paper}

Learning to capture the big shapes and values is important to me, however I also need to spend time on developing the abilty to paint the smaller details like, rocks and such. So this study focused on the rocky edge of the Potomac.

I am was out painting this morning, the weather has returned to the normal temperatures DC is supposed to have during this time of year. It was a beautiful morning.

Thanks for stopping by, Liz

Working in Plein Air: Potomac River Series



Now that I am in the home stretch of the pregnancy and my desire to keep painting until the very end has really kicked into over drive, I began a new project on the 1st of June. They say nesting starts to kick in around this time, however I have found that drive to paint is more predominant...

The project consists of simple plein air sketches along the Potomac river south of Old Town Alexandria. I live about a mile from the river's edge so for several mornings a week I have been heading out around sunrise to capture the moment. The goal is to get more comfortable with painting en plein air with a limited palette of aliz. crimson, cad. yellow pale, winsor green, ultramarine blue, and titanium white. Each painting is completed as quickly as possible {1/2 hr to 2 hrs} and most often has a specific paint handling/technique that I am trying to work through and get more adept at.

Here are the paintings from the first week of June:

20110601 Potomac River Series I
Potomac River I
{6" x 8" (15.2 x 20.3 cm) – oil on canvas panel}

On the first day I was so motivated that I was up and in the car before sunrise, so by the time I got to the river's edge the sun had just begun to climb into the sky...

20110601 Potomac River Series II
Potomac River II
{6" x 8" (15.2 x 20.3 cm) – oil on canvas panel}

With this painting the sun had already moved up pretty high into the sky and I wanted to focus on the gradiation of the sky and the soft edges of the trees on the other side of the river bank.

20110602 Potomac River Series III
Potomac River III
{6" x 8" (15.2 x 20.3 cm) – oil on canvas panel}

This composition is a continuation on exploring soft edges and atmospheric haze while beginning to incorporate some foreground features.

20110605 Potomac River Series IV
Potomac River IV
{6" x 8" (15.2 x 20.3 cm) – oil on canvas panel}

On this morning the sky was threatening to open up on me at any moment, a few times I had several drops of water fall down upon me and the painting. Being a hazy, humid morning grays and atmospheric perspective became the main focus of this study.

River Farm {Plein Air Painting}


20100331 River Farm 12x16

River Farm – 12" x 16" (30.5 x 40.6 cm) – Oil Canvas Panel

Wednesdays are my days to go out and paint en plein air. This schedule was started a few weeks ago, where I go out with an artist friend who has lots of experience painting outside. I am still learning about how best to paint landscapes while also dealing with the elements.

Today we faced windy conditions, one gust tipped my easel over, spilling palette, canvas panel, and all the contents stored in the easel all over the place… I was just lucky that my turp/OMS was not open yet. So from this little adventure I now know attach my easel to something heavy to avoid future times where the wind may catch the a flat canvas panel and change its function from a painting surface to a kite.

It was a fun experience, though I am exhausted from it! It reminds me of Sara Winters blog post from last year about how plein air painting can be challenging. It is and this is why I am going to keep at it, because I like the challenge :) even when the outcome does not quite match what I had in mind.

Have a wonderful evening, and thanks for reading,


Jefferson Memorial

10 2009 Jefferson Memorial.jpg

Jefferson Memorial – 8" x 16" (20.3 x 40.6 cm) – Oil Canvas Panel

Here is the oil painting of the Jefferson Memorial, it was all painted in plein air over three sessions between 10am and 1pm. The quality of light as it struck the marble structure and how the shadows were cast was really important to me, I wanted to capture the golden pink tones of the sunlight sides and the cool purple and greens of the shadows.

I am finding that painting buildings with oil paint is a much more challenging endeavor than working in watercolor. It all has to do with the finessing of edges, not getting to many hard edges except where it is important and also getting the perspective correct. I also wonder if working on a larger canvas would help, to have more room for the more fiddly details. Here is last year’s painting of a nearby view.

Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary and I am taking off the day to spend with my love. This morning I made a banana nut loaf to have something special over breakfast.
Thanks for reading today :)

Friday Inspiration: Summer is...

06 2009 cloud studies 1.jpg
Cloud Studies – 8" x 8" (20 x 20 cm) – Oil Canvas Panel

Hello ~

Has your week been inspiring or has anything caught your attention this week that you would like to share? I cannot say there has been any specific moment this week when inspiration truly struck, though there have been moments of peace, excitement, and satisfaction. And I guess these moments would count as being moments of inspiration, don’t you think?

Here are a few links:

} This photo reminds me of nostalgic images of summer

} I made this drink yesterday for lunch, yum!

} I am getting inspired by what summer is to other creative souls

And here is a quote that makes me want to go out and investigate life more, "An artist is an explorer. He has to begin by self-discovery and by observation of his own procedure. After that he must not feel under any constraint." Henri Matisse.

Have a wonderful weekend, Liz

First Plein Air of the Year

06 2009 the plains 8x10.jpg
The Plains – 8" x 10" (20 x 25 cm) – NFS

Happy weekend!

How has your weekend been? Mine has been pretty busy.

Yesterday I went out on a drive west of DC with my painting gear with the intention to visit the farm we purchased a CSA share from this summer and to do some painting. After visiting the farm, I drove into The Plains, VA to scout out a painting spot while there I took some time to be a tourist and visited some of the shops. There seems to be a nice art scene there and two shops were especially nice. At ZigZag I met Roberta Jeffries who had created some beautiful prints that were on display, the store had some nice pottery and art from local artists. Her daughter, Fleming Jeffries, also has a print studio in town. Then across the street I visited Live an Artful Life, where Linda Neel was in the shop, she is the owner and also a textile artist.

After being a tourist I found a view from a Baptist Church parking lot overlooking rolling fields and painted away for the next 2-1/2 hours. The first plein air painting of the year always means a lot to me. I’m not sure why so much emotional involvement with the first painting of the season, but each year the first one captures feelings that I feel balled up in my chest every time I look at one. And today I feel the same way looking at this little painting.

Today I have been working in the studio on a still life, it is getting near completion. Soon I will post about it. Until then, have a wonderful afternoon, Liz

View of Potomac Landscape Painting

view of potomac 2007.jpg

View of the Potomac – 8” x 10” Oil on Canvas Panel NFS

I am still working on art “back of house” stuff and two large paintings. So blog posts have been slim. Fortunately my husband, Steve, brought home this painting from his office. I completed this landscape painting last year and never posted it on this blog. Seeing a painting after a long while is like receiving a gift from an old friend. Welcome home again!

Since moving to the DC area over eight years ago, I love the views of the Potomac River and the dense trees that pervade the area. During the summer the landscape has these great hazy prospects that emphasize the rolling terrain of the region and the sweltering heat. So the light is diffused and somewhat grayed out. The quality of light is changing now that we are moving into the fall. Humidity is reducing and the light is sharper. Casting stronger shadows and saturating the views. Saying this emphasizes I really need to get outdoors and paint, instead of just thinking about it and describing it. Well, if this weekend goes well, maybe all of my chores will be completed and my larger paintings will be far enough along to head outside…

Have a great evening! Liz

Slim, our Abyssinian

slim 2008.jpg

Sketch of Slim – 6" x 8" Oil on Canvas Panel

Slim is our Abysinnian cat, she is a wonderful and precocious companion. When the weather is good, she begs for walks and likes to be outside. Because she is a very small kitty, 6.5 lbs full grown (7 years old) we do not like to let her outside unattended. So she gets to go outside with a leash, which she handles very well, almost like a dog.

This painting was a memory exercise. She kept her pose for the few moments I could sketch it out, she then moved to another area on our patio. So with the initial sketch I completed this painting, and checking her out every so often to verify I got the right colors and values of her. It was a fun little experiement. This weekend is going to have good weather for a while, so I think I will try it out again… have a great weekend!

Here is a photo of Slim on a walk behind our apartment building

First Plein Air Painting of the Year!

jefferson memorial 2008.jpg

Jefferson Memorial – 8x10 Oil on Canvas Panel

Yesterday, Steve and I went down to the national mall early in the morning to celebrate Memorial Day weekend. I wanted to kick off the plein air painting season and Steve wanted to get out on his bike and ride around the monuments. It worked out great, as I am not a morning person having Steve involved with the scheme it ensured I would get out of bed and get some painting done.

While we were at the mall, we went around to the WWI and WWII monuments, then sat and watched the Rolling Thunder parade go by. Here is a picture of the various motorcycles we saw drive by…

Then we had a laid-back lunch of hot dogs and ice cream, the ducks at the Tidal Basin are super friendly as long as you are eating some form of food with bread. A mallard drake and a mallard hen were our lunch partners along with two small finches. The female duck was more aggressive about grabbing all the choice crumbs, leaving the drake to occasionally obtain a morsel or two.

Happy Memorial Day!