Shadow shape study in front yard

plein air painting in front yard Jun 4 2019
Plein air study of shadow shapes, 6×8 oil on canvas panel

I didn’t have plans to paint outdoors today, but when I took the dogs out after their breakfast I was blown away by the beautiful weather. I was very tempted to set my easel up outside to find something to paint, but there’s always an accident to clean up when I leave them alone. I say “accident” but it feels more like revenge. In any case, I remembered something I heard from Matt Smith the other day (either in a podcast or one of his video courses I recently purchased) about listing his excuses to not get outside with his paints, and knocking them out one by one. It inspired me to get out there, even though I was certain I’d have to clean the floor when I got back inside.

Which I did. But it was totally worth it. It was perfect outside — not too warm, not too cold, and the sun was out, making a strong shadow pattern on the sidewalk. Since this shape established the structure of my composition, I quickly sketched out a thumbnail of it before it moved too much as the sun got higher in the sky.

Quick sketch of light and shadow shapes

I used a limited palette of ultramarine blue, naphthol red, cadmium yellow pale hue, and titanium white. A neutral grey would have been useful to lower the chroma of some of the colors, but I didn’t bring one out with me. Plus it’s kind of fun to see the vibrancy of the colors I mixed compared to the dullness of the photo I snapped as I was selecting my scene.

The view I used for my study

I started by blocking in thin layers of the average color of each shape, then went in with details and thicker paint strokes. There were patches of warmer and cooler colors on the sidewalk that I had fun playing around with because they added interest to those flat planes. And using the average local color block-in has been a nice change of pace from the monochromatic earth tone or complementary color style underpaintings I’ve been experimenting with lately.