Painting en plein air

Mount Sunapee ski trails

A Painting Rises From a Blank Panel

Ski trails on mount sunapee

The first thing I need is something that inspires me and I find the
snow-covered ski trails of Mount Sunapee late in the season. Outside temperatures was about 30 degrees.

My Palette

Paint on palette

I use a limited number of colors: (From Right to Left) White, Viridian, Colbalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, Cad Red Light, Cad yellow light, yellow ochre and Burnt umber. Every color comes from mixing these colors, I rarely use the color straight from the tube. And I have painted with even fewer colors.

I start with a toned panel so the orange color in the sky is the tone color of the panel.

The beauty of painting on location verses from a photograph is that I Create the composition I wanted, not copy what was in front of me.

The goal is to create a good composition with a strong focal point (the mountain and ski trails), a good lead (in the breaks in the ice) and then to capture what motivated me to do this painting in the first place. I am only thinking shape, value and composition at this point. I had found the perfect spot but the sky turned gray and (so did my fingers) so only got the basic block in with out the sky. (45 minutes).

The evolution

I continue to develop the painting, first by adding the sky and then focusing on the mountain and tree line. Using value and color to move the mountain back in space. As you can see adding in the sky it changes everything else in the painting. I am thinking the sky is too blue but will adjust later.

I adjusted the tree line bringing the left side up which makes the mountain look farther back and the tree line closer.

Now I have grayed the sky and lightened the value so it better represents the kind of day it was. I added more definition to the trees and more detail to the ice. Now I feel the mountain is the star of the painting, the key hole that brings you in.

This finished painting is “Late Winter Trails” 5 x 7