As I have been threatening, it’s now official the start of plein air season. Next weekend I am getting together with Sandra Pearce and others to do the Willamette Valley Lavender Festival paint out. This weekend was the first time I was able to go to Artist in Action’s Paint the Town event.

I acted as “host” for myself and eight other paintings at a private residence adjacent to the Ankeny Wildlife Refuge. And it was STUNNING. As if the views weren’t dreamy enough, the flower gardens were enough to drool over.

In addition, they had a charming dog and a set of barnyard animals (sorry, no picture of the dog.)

I am proud of myself; I followed my new regime of sketching for a good long time before I painted.

While the gardens very very appealing, I eventually decided to paint the amazing view.

I need to pause here for a short commercial break.

I recently decided to purchase a real watercolor easel after at least three years of struggling through trying to use a cheap easel made in the 1960’s for oil painting, dragging around a table, and/or using my lap. Jerry’s Artarama had a Labor Day sale on plein air equipment, so I purchases a new easel and a little “bag” that attaches underneath to hold my water bin or anything else I need.

It is so rare in this day and age to purchase anything and be completely satisfied with it. It is even rarer to be more than satisfied.So I just want to say…


It fits a board. It tilts. It has a little tray to hold brushes. It has three levels of adjustment so you can make the legs “just so.” (I will admit that I was mentally challenged at first figuring how to it worked, but I’m sure we can all agree that’s just me.)

I am telling you… if you’re a plein air painter and haven’t purchased a real easel for it, RUN, don’t walk, to buy a real outdoor easel.

Back to our originally scheduled program.

I set up under the big oak tree (SHADE!) and sketched out what I saw in the distance.

This is not an impressive sketch, but I actually like that things are out proportion band overlapping oddly, because something about it made me realize that it was the patterns of overlap that I was interested in.
After making some notes about actual proportions, I sketched out the painting on the watercolor paper and painted away.

This still needs some studio adjustment, but I like where’s it at.

I fooled around a little while and thought about doing a garden piece, but I decided I could do that anytime, and shifted to beneath a different tree to work on a slightly different view.

I was very drawn to the solitary oaks and the way they sat against the long rows of the field. But I rushed the sketch…

… and it shows in the painting.

Again, this will go back to the studio and I think some adjustments can save it. The hay bales are too dark (who knew boxes were so tricky…) and I think some additional darks will help it.

All in all, it was a good start to official plein air season.