Alpine Lake, Mount Tamalpais

It couldn’t have been a more perfect day, weather-wise, or a more beautiful site. Maybe it was the beauty and grandeur of the location that made it so hard to get a decent painting. Four of us met this morning on Mt. Tamalpais to paint and stayed until 6:00 p.m But despite the perfect conditions, nobody had a good painting day. Peggy threatened to throw her easel in the lake and take up singing instead of painting.

I’m posting the bad paintings because a reader asked me to show the ones I call “scrapers” before I trash them or scrape the paint off to reuse the panel. On my easel above, was the first layer–the blocking in–of painting #1, in which I “pushed” (exaggerated) the intensity of the colors I was seeing, knowing it’s easier to tone them down than brighten them in oil painting.

I liked the initial bright colors but wasn’t successful in taking it to the next stage, as you’ll see from the picture below. This was where I left off when I gave up after the sun moved and the light and shadows changed and I was just making a mess.

Alpine Lake, Mount Tamalpais 1

And this one (below) was even worse! The drawing is wrong and the silly, carrot colored-rabbit foot shaped hills on the left kept growing without my noticing and I lost all my darks. The third painting was so terrible I scraped it off on site.

Alpine Lake, Mount Tamalpais 2

Although I feel like I’ve taken a couple of steps backwards today, I will just assume that means that I’m going to have a big leap forwards soon. My paintings were complete rubbish but I was happy just being there. I found pleasure in small things: mixing a good color, the fresh paint thinner in my brush washer can, excellent company and no bugs, rain or wind so it was safe to use my umbrella without worrying about the wind pulling it (and my easel) over.

My only regret was not taking a hike like all the other people strolling by us. I felt envious of them when I heard them talking about the nearby waterfall and the wonderful trails.

I’m going to start taking a lunch time hike when I paint in beautiful locations. I think it will be good for my painting, my mind, and my butt, which wouldn’t fit into my painting jeans this morning! Must have been all the medicinal chocolate I ate the past few weeks to calm my stress at the day job.

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Category:
Landscape, Oil Painting, Outdoors/Landscape, Painting, Photos, Plein Air
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Join the conversation! 15 Comments

  1. These are great. Yes they are. I understand that they’re not working as self contacined painings, and didn’t communicate what it was you saw in the scene. But, it could be worse. First, the top one; I love the way the sky and back hills seeme to be merging . I love the colours in the trees on the right. The photo you took means that you could work over this back at home, to calm down the water and stop it splashing off the page. But, the colours in the water, the yellows close to, and the lilacs you’ve picked up in the water are fantastic. I think you could turn the top one into a sucess story.
    The bottom one – the gradual receding of planes works great. You just need to add a bit more colour to the hills and trees. The water is a good foundation. Maybe paint over the yellow hills in a neutral colour, then starting sky, and distant hills work your way forward. When you get top the hills on the left you’ll then know what you want to do, before ou finish off the last touches to the water.
    Maybe re-visit the site, but draw in in a different meduim altogether before you re-work them. Or take another track altogether. I just feel from looking at them that they could work in a really strong way.

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  2. First of all, why do I think I would proudly hang one of your “bad” pictures in my living room if it were mine? But second, that feeling of taking a backward step is just an illusion, you know. All steps in art are steps forward. I really believe that.

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  3. Hi Jana,
    I think you’re really brave to post the ones you are unsatisfied with, so that folks can see how you did. Personally I think the first one still has possibilities, it looks like a painting that is still in it’s early stages to me. I like the layers of paint which create some excitement just by their painterly quality. Also the feeling of distance is good in the background.

    I find it helpful to ask myself these 2 questions: “What is this painting about?” and secondly ” What am I trying to say?” This helps me focus on my purpose for painting it, and somehow helps me to think of ways that would give voice to what I want to say about it…sometimes this might call for adding or even eggagerating elements of interest, by making one area the focus, or sometimes it calls for diffusing areas so that they become secondary to the area of focus. It’s often hard to hone in on what it is that should be the focus when out plein air painting because it’s too easy to get awed by the splendour and beauty of everything!! And it doesn’t help if you are there for the whole day and the sun moves making all the interesting elements like the shadows change their position throughout the day!! Early decisions about the direction of the light do help.

    Well at least you had a good time enjoying the perfection of the day Jana! And you are right…any steps backwards always mean a big leap forward soon! At least that’s been my experience.

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  4. Sounds like it was a fun day – even if you were not happy with your painting. Do I see a new easel? and umbrella?

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  5. Jana, don’t tell us when you’re not successful, because we’d never notice! The first one in particular looks really good to me. And I’m sooo jealous of that sunny California weather!! My daughter’s thinking of going to school in San Francisco next year, and I think weather will be a deciding factor in her choice!

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  6. Sorry you felt so frustrated with your painting…Yep, a hike at lunch would probably help. I have some pictures of this lake with the hills across reflected perfectly in the water. Have sat dosn a couple of times with paints but havn’t had the nerve to paint it… Sounds like a great outdoor day anyway.

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  7. I so know that feeling, Jana — and yet I have to agree with those above — I think that top one is wonderful — the colors, the energy!!! the sunshine-y-ness of it! I know it’s all learning, though the days that give us a fitI usspose help us enjoy those days of grace when the painting seems to flow on its own … I do thik you’re making incredible forward movement in oils, Jana … and give these another glance in ten days .. see what you think then … glad the day was fun nonetheless!

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  8. Thanks for sharing the progression of paintings. It’s all a learning experience. I think outdoor painting of ‘scenes’ is very hard because there’s just too much to put in. It’s easier to just focus on a small part of what you see. You don’t have to aim for a cinemascope image of a view. Okay? Some people use a cardboard with a square hole to view a scene and just put in what’s inside that square. Not every which way but loose!
    w.

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  9. It’s not that bad. But I know artists. They know how to judge their works fairly enough. But you’re good, I know.

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  10. Well, I like the way you appear to have ‘roughly’ put on the paint in the top one – gives the piece energy – even if other criteria don’t measure up.

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  11. You’re right Jana…the scene looks absolutely divine! I can see myself giving up painting there and just be! Sometimes things work and other times, well…then it is time to rather hike. But I do like your top painting, it has an energy and movement which may not be what you were aiming for, but it is as beautiful!
    Ronell

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  12. Wow … you really underestimate yourself Jana … I actually really like the carrot hills (why do they have to look EXACTLY like real life anyways?). The combination of colours on that painting is wonderful, and so spring-like. And the reflections in the water of the trees are WONDERful …

    Maybe you should try and find at least three good things about each of your paintings – even the ones you’re unhappy with. They are all part of your learning process…

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  13. Wow! I am humbled and so grateful for these wonderful, encouraging and wise words you all have been so kind to share with me. Thank you soooo much! I felt a bit vulnerable posting these but now I’m so glad I did!

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  14. Hi hey I know that it feels frustrating to have a bad art day, but honestly the first painting here looks like it’s got potential. I really like the colour of the sky. Anyway, thanks for sharing. It’s always handy to learn from other, more experienced artists!

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  15. the first painting is not icky, I like it somehow!

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