Day 21. Challenge Yourself, Plein Air Take 2


“Breezy” 12×12, oil on canvas, $150 [button link=”″ type=”big”] Buy Now[/button]

Yesterday, I said I was going to try to get outside on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This morning, I thought of a million reasons why I would skip today and shoot for Thursday: I don’t want to be a landscape painter. I got to a late start and by the time I pack my stuff it will be almost time to pick up Ezra from school. I got a sunburn last time. There’s a painting on my inside easel that I really want to finish.

What all of those excuses really meant was this: but it will be hard. Even though my career goals don’t involve becoming primarily a landscape artist, they do include getting better, and I know, beyond the excuses, that doing things that are hard are making me better. I know that painting from life makes my paintings from photographs better.

So in the spirit of not backing down from things that are challenging,  I did it. I spent more time driving around Madisonville than I did on the actual painting, but I eventually settled into a little shaded spot in Fairview State Park, and got to work.

It was hard. I struggled. But today’s weather was the kind Louisianians often ask, couldn’t it just stay like this? It was cool, low humidity, blue skies. It’s weather so good it’s almost like we can’t fully enjoy it because of the sharp contrast to the summer months we know are coming.

I did enjoy it. Instead of music, I listened to the birds, the fish that leapt out of the water and then bellyflopped against its smooth surface. I listened to the boats go by and the water they caused to lap against the shore.

This is another view of the Tchefuncte River from a very different spot. What I’m struggling most with is the lack of boundaries when painting a landscape. I have to decide where my little view begins and ends, it’s top, bottom, and sides, and it’s easy to get lost. So I’m making a game plan for Thursday:

1. Squint more. Squinting helps simplify the shapes and better assess the comparative values. I always forget about it.

2. Choose a definitive focal point, something that stands out from it’s background. I’ve been looking at trees. Around them and behind them are trees. I get lost. I want to try something which has a clear distinction between foreground and background. A boat on the water perhaps.

3. Don’t rush. I’m a fast painter, and I’d say it’s one of my greatest strengths. But just like most strengths, it  also gets me into trouble. I rush. Especially since I’m taking on something so new, I’d love to slow down a bit. On the two times I’ve painted plein air, people have come up to talk to me. I think I’m so worried about their assessment of a work-in-progress that I try to get as much down as quickly as possible so that they won’t be confused. Relax, Denise. Maybe I’ll bring a Bloody Mary?

4. Paint bigger. I think if I have more room, the view I take will be less confusing. I might not do this Thursday, but it’s on the list of goals. If I get a small landscape I really, really love I might just try to turn it into a large (24x30ish) painting.

And, again, I just have to say how grateful I am to all of you who like, share, and comment on my work on Facebook. Business pages work differently than personal pages– the more engagement a post has, the more people see it. I sell paintings (which means I can afford to make more!) because of the number of people who see my work on-line, and your simple like or comment helps me do that. Thank you for helping me do what I feel most happy doing.

Picture of Denise Hopkins

Denise Hopkins

April 21, 2015

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