I spent the afternoon painting this pleasant view of Cordell Avenue in Bethesda, Maryland. Cityscapes are, for me, the most challenging form of plein air painting. First, you’ve got to get your perspective right. Second, it’s a drawing challenge: there are lots of machine-tooled, symmetrical objects with sharp edges and perfect corners (buildings, cars, windows), and it takes lots of concentration to draw them correctly. Third, composition is a challenge: how do you pick a focal point when there are so many interesting things to see? Fourth, there’s a ton of detail, and even if you omit 80% of it, there’s still a ton of detail. But the upside is that it’s never boring, and I never lack for company — well-wishers stop by my easel all day long.
My back has been too sore for me to drive safely, so I’ve been walking to nearby spots to paint. In this case, I was trying to highlight the bend in the road in the top-left, but I also wanted to include the car because it’s just plain fun to paint cars. The trouble with cars, though, is that they always drive away. True to form, this one poofed before I’d finished it. I did my best completing it from memory.
It was a lovely afternoon to paint — until a squall unleashed a torrent of rain. Still, it made for a nice wet street to paint. I went for a semi-abstract vibe.
I was driving by this tree a couple days and came to a screeching halt. I just had to paint it! It’s been pruned in somewhat odd ways, creating some unpredictable lighting patterns. It may not be the best choice of subject, but I don’t care — it was fun to paint. I’m not sure I’m done with this one yet.
I went back to the same neighborhood I painted yesterday, this time one street over. I loved this yellow-orange tree! Unfortunately, I didn’t finish before darkness fell. I need to define the road better, refine the trees on the left, and probably tone down the dark spots at the end of the road. And I might add a figure or two, or a car. I may do those things in the studio, as rain is in the forecast.
I had only an hour or so to paint today, in late afternoon, and as I was wrapping up a parade of cute trick-or-treaters came ambling by. Fun! I also had fun painting this little scene. I removed trash cans and cars, and I sneaked in a few extra fall colors, so the picture is more idyllic than the reality. So be it!
It was our first nice fall day of the year, or so it seemed, so I finally got a chance to search for some fall colors to paint. I found some muted ones on Norfolk Street, in Bethesda. My ink sketch was promising, but I dithered too long with the oil painting, and by the time I had settled on a composition, everything was basically in shadow. It’s a lot easier to convey form when things have both a light side and a shadow side! So this is one case in which I prefer my 5-minute sketch to my 3-hour painting.
Today I started drawing and painting Wisconsin Avenue looking south toward Chevy Chase Acura and downtown Bethesda. Here’s the oil painting, still in its early stages:
And here’s the preliminary sketch I did, in black carbon ink and purple water-soluble ink. I hope to return over the next few days, but parking is difficult there during the week, so I may not finish this for a while!
I spent the afternoon adding details to trees, improving the drawing, and painting MY car instead of the car that abandoned me in my first session. I also added a figure walking on the street. I'm not sure this one is done yet, but it's getting close; I'm inclined to leave it loose like this. I'll set it aside for a week or so to think on it.
When I started this painting, there was a car parked on the left side of the road, but of course it drove away after an hour. I may park my car on the road tomorrow so that I have a model to paint.
The National Park Service says DC's cherry blossoms supposedly reached their peak five days ago, on April 5, but our blossoms in Maryland seem to be peaking right around now. (For the NPS view, check out https://www.nps.gov/subjects/cherryblossom/bloom-watch.htm.) So of course I had to get out there and paint them again!
This time I chose a more ambitious composition -- a shadowed foreground and a lit background -- even though I knew it would be easier to paint the blossoms with a dark background, as I did in my previous blog post. I guess I wanted a change of pace. I also wanted to depict how the blossoms form a canopy over our streets. To do that best, I'd have to stand in the middle of the road and paint, but that's not feasible, especially with the caravan of tourists. The piece turned out reasonably well, but I still prefer the single tree I posted on the blog two days ago.
I was interested in the late-afternoon light at the end of this street. I wanted a feeling of a little light cutting into a lot of shadow. The time constraints forced me to sketch in the background quickly, with soft edges. It turned out kind of cool!