Plein Air in Milwaukie

I love painting in oil when I’m plein air painting. But I’m just not that confident about it. But I really want to get better …

I love painting in oil when I’m plein air painting. But I’m just not that confident about it. But I really want to get better at it and dig deeper. That’s one of the many things I took away from the IAPS convention; digging deeper. What can I do as a painter to deepen my painting practice? How can I not just get better, but dig deeper?

With the start of summer, I’m loving being outdoors and taking in the light, the breeze the feel of the sun on my skin. What could be better than being outdoors and painting? It’s amazing. But, in the past I’ve found myself doing all the things I spend lots of time telling my students not to do; not planning the composition, niggling around in one area, not massing together shapes, mixing the wrong values etc., etc. Why does that happen when I get outdoors? And what can I do to change those tendencies?

First, I went and watched someone who knows what they are doing! I watched Eric Jacobsen, do two demos. What an amazing painter he is! And a super nice guy. He has a way of capturing the essence of the moment without being totally bound to exactly what is in front of him. Right up my alley! I loved it.

Eric at George Rogers Park doing his demo


Eric at Luscher Farm

 A number of things among the many that I took away:

1. Mass shapes in the light together. Mass shapes in shadow together.
2. Paint with the biggest brushes you have first as you are blocking in.
3. Use the whole brush and paint with your wrist and arm, not your fingers
4. Get enough paint on the tip of the brush, not into the ferrule.
5. Move around the whole piece.
6. Be willing to sacrifice all the way to the finish.

I also felt like Eric gave me permission to paint like I paint in plein air. I suppose that I’d unconsciously taken some notions about plein air with me into my painting. Dumb! Since watching his demos, I’ve spent lots of time painting with some duds (that’s o.k.) and some progress. Most of all, I’m really enjoying being outdoors, taking in the air, the light and being connected to the landscape.

I’ve been painting at Milwaukie Riverfront Park which is walking distance from my house. Milwaukie is a bit of a sleeper when it comes to nature. When you think of painting spots in the Portland area, I’ll bet Milwaukie doesn’t exactly pop right to mind. But right here we have a newly redesigned waterfront and Elk Rock Island, a gem that is somewhat forgotten and neglected. Hopefully with light rail opening in early September, our neck of the woods will get a little more attention!

What I like about the pieces I’ve done, is I feel they begin to capture a bit of the quality of light. I didn’t get too absorbed in the details. I wanted to say the very most with the least. I wanted to make deliberate and gestural strokes, rather than tentative, wimpy ones! I’m a long way from where I’d like to be in oil, but my mantra has always been to paint, paint, paint. So I’m sure that taking my own advice here will yield good results.

Watching Eric’s demo was a great reminder to me, that sometimes it’s helpful and maybe even transformative, to watch someone else do it! I know this from hearing from my own students, but feeling it myself was wonderful. Eric is a wonderful teacher and runs a great workshop which I highly recommend. Thank you, Eric!!

Milwaukie Riverfront Park
Milwaukie Riverfront Park
Milwaukie Riverfront Park
Milwaukie Riverfront Park
Milwaukie Riverrfront Park
Sketch in with alizarin crimson and burnt umber

And now for the shameless self promotion part of my blog! Be sure to check out my new website,! My Loosen Up Intensive workshop is now available as a download, or DVD. You can subscribe to my mini-lessons and updates on the site. Much more is coming soon. I have plans for a live online workshop, a beginners only section and weekly lessons. Stay tuned!

2 Responses

  1. Great post! I'm right there with you when it comes to painting, I need to do more of it. Today is the last day of school for me (high school art teacher) and I'm so ready for Summer vacation! Let the painting fun begin…;)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *