Friday, October 8, 2010

Take me to the river

Posted by Maggie

Much of what we paint in Spain is architectural—whether it's the white walls and red rooftops of the pueblos blancos or bridges or other subjects. So it was a nice break to go out for a day in the campo, or countryside, and paint natural subjects.

The River Genal runs through the Genal Valley and Júzcar, and while it is not a large river, it has some very pretty spots. The place we went to paint also has ruins of an old tin factory, and while that's still an architectural subject, at least it's falling down stone walls and not white villages. In the area around the ruins are orange and lemon trees, and one tree with odd fruits that were finally identified as persimmon, though they didn't look like the persimmons we know at home.

In the morning I painted a demonstration on how to paint moving water and rocks, which was quite fun after all these days of painting buildings. The river was quite shadowed when I began, but as the day went on it got more and more light. It was cool in the morning but as soon as the sun hit, so did the flies. There's always some problem when you're painting outdoors—if it's not too hot or too windy, then there are probably bugs. Or, sometimes, you get them all. But if the painting comes out well, it's all worth it. Left, my demo, Rio Genal, 9x11, Pastelmat, ©Maggie Price.

What makes a plein air painting a success? Well, first of all, I try not to call them paintings, but rather field studies. Calling your work a field study removes the pressure of trying to create a finished, frameable painting, and lets you just get as much information about value, temperature, color and form as you can get before the light changes. And sometimes, if you're lucky, it's also a painting.

Late in the afternoon I took a few minutes for a really quick study. Working on a dark gray-black, I did this little study of the ruins in about 35 minutes. My goal was to get as much as possible about color and value onto the page in that short time, without worrying too much about composition or drawing. I wanted to keep it loose and free and imply more than state the form of the walls. I'm pretty happy with the resut, Ruins, 9x11, Pastelmat, ©Maggie Price.

It was a nice day and a nice change of pace. We went back to the hotel for an early night and preparation for a very early departure the next morning for our trip to Granada and the Alhambra Palace, the subject of the next blog in this series.

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