Thursday, May 12, 2016

Check Your Rearview - Penn Valley Plein Air

"Edge of the Lake" (oil on panel, 12"x9"). Photo by Saunders Fine Arts

It was the final morning of the Penn Valley Plein Air Festival, and all of the artists were gathered at 7am for the quick paint at Penn Valley Lake. We had been here before. Last year I had painted a view of the skyline across the lake and the year before that, a tree on the opposite shore.

My paintings from 2015 and 2014.

This morning I walked north to a small footbridge that crossed the creek feeding the lake. I settled on the bridge and set up my gear, considering how I would handle the stones, the water and the surrounding shoreline.

The scene I had originally been planning to paint.

As I finished up my coffee, I looked around the area, waiting for the horn to signal the start of the quick paint, and then I saw it.

The scene behind me.

Although far simpler, for me the scene brought to mind a painting I greatly admired by Dennis Miller Bunker. Weeds and grasses at the edge of the lake, swirling together and reflecting in the water. It would make a much better painting than the one I had been considering, and IT WAS RIGHT BEHIND ME!

I simply picked up my easel and turned it 180 degrees. When the horn blew, I painted quickly and efficiently. As I worked, the sunlight crested the hill and splashed across the scene and lighting up the tips of the tallest grasses. This was the most fun I had painting during the entire festival, and the painting was completed in under an hour.

Painting subjects are everywhere, sometimes even right behind you.

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