Bay Area Parks Landscape Oil Painting Outdoors/Landscape Painting Places Plein Air

Martinez Waterfront Park Plein Air Step by Step

6. Martinez Waterfront Final version
6. Martinez Waterfront, oil, 8x8"

When my plein air group at Martinez Waterfront Park last Saturday I really enjoyed the painting process despite getting a late start. Then I tinkered in the studio, never one to leave well enough alone. Above is the final version and below are the steps I took to get there, recorded just for fun. First is the thumbnail sketch/value study:

1. Thumbnail, pencil
1. Thumbnail/value study

Then I blocked in the colors using really thin paint at the average color of each of the large shapes and planes or puzzle pieces as I like to think of them.  I was pleased to see I did the drawing pretty well, and was able to fit everything on the square panel in about the same proportions as I saw them and as in my thumbnail sketch.

2. Block in with oil paint
2. Block in with oil paint

My time was up; I’d only had 2 hours to paint but it was time to meet up for the critique. Here’s a photo of the painting on the easel in front of the scene I was painting.

3. Time to stop, on-site
3. Time to stop, painting and photo on-site

Below is a photo of the painting as it looked when I finished it on site.

4. At home pre-revisions
4. Finished field study

I decided to see if I could improve it,  and especially wanted to get rid of the egregious bilious green grass in the bottom right corner so below is the first studio revision.

Martinez waterfront, finished (?) at home
5. Revised in studio #1

After looking at it for a while I decided I liked the original better and wanted to try to work with it some more to see if I could increase the sense of depth and get back some of the brightness of the water.

6. Martinez Waterfront Final version
6. Martinez Waterfront Final version

So #6 above and the larger image at the top is where I’m stopping. I’ve got so many more paintings I want to do and though I could continue to diddle with this little 10×10″ painting I’m calling it done. And then I look at the reflections in the water and think maybe if I just…. but my art-fairy-godmother will take my brushes away if I do. Thank you art-fairy!

5 replies on “Martinez Waterfront Park Plein Air Step by Step”

Jana…You did a nice job on this one. I especially like that you shared your step-by-step and your thinking as you progressed.

This is the type scene that actually looks better to my eye in a (good) painting. Your mountains have life (color) in them, without overdoing it. Look at how b-o-r-i-n-g the mountains look in reality. You did a very good job on the reflections and did the right thing to not diddle further.

I’m taking a 4-day workshop (three days indoors, one outdoors weather permitting) this week with Mel Stabin. Location is a quaint Victorian town not far from the shore. It should be interesting as I have not worked in my studio for almost three weeks.

My primary goal, believe it or not, is to get a handle on how to properly prepare the paints my palette. I usually either over- or under-do the amount of water–yet to start with fresh paint each session seems like I’d blow thru the tubes too fast. Watching an experienced artist at work (either in person or on DVDs), the paints are always already mixed in the palette at exactly the right consistency and they just fly with them.

My secondary goal is to produce a masterpiece. Ha!


Hi Rita,
Thanks for the kind words about the painting. It did look nicer in person
than in the photo. Mel Stabin taught at the local watercolor association and
did a nice demo the night before the workshop. It was nice seeing his work
up close and he seems like a very nice man. He’s definitely a master at
simplifying which I admire tremendously.

You’re right about the importance of getting the correct amount of water to
paint depending on what you’re trying to achieve. Sometimes you want the
paint to be watery and sometimes you want it to be more like cream. Most
watercolor painters don’t put out fresh paint every time. The trick is to
moisten the paint in the palette wells that has dried to a wet enough
consistency that you can take paint from them. If I want to make a wash I
then make a little puddle of water in the center part of the palette and add
paint from the wells to the puddle, mixing the color and consistency I want.
I’ll start with a bigger puddle for a larger area or a waterier wash. I use
a little squirt bottle to make the puddle. (If this doesn’t make sense or
I’m misunderstanding your dilemma, let me know and I’ll see if I can help).

Good luck with your masterpieces!


I really like your final version as well – the soft colors add an atmosphere which doesn’t come through in the photo (although I’m sure you felt in on site). Isn’t it hard to leave well enough alone? I’m always wanting to do just one more thing, and then ruin everything. Congratulations for not doing that here!


Love this painting Jana..especially number 4 – finished field painting, it has beautiful spontaneuous strokes(I saw on the bigger version).
I know that feeling too wel; not leaving it alone. What normally works for me, is hanging my painting high on the wall after it is “finished”, because when it is in close range, I’ll fiddle it to smitterens!


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