April Plein Air

April wasn’t all work, work, work.  And although it felt like it a few times, it wasn’t all snow, snow, snow.  Not quite….

There were a couple of days that were warm enough to switch back to acrylics for plein-air painting close to home.  I started off by revisiting one of the first places I ever took my portable easel: Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, and some intriguing bluffs.

This was before there was any appreciable amount of green grass, and before even the prairie crocuses bloomed.  It wasn’t about lighting or colors, but the geometry of the rocks overlooking the Bow River and the train tracks behind the thorny knoll where I planted my easel and stayed for almost two hours, until the wind picked up enough to start grabbing the palette in my hand.

Bluffs easel

The subtle gradations of brown and gray were a challenge, since I hadn’t painted much in a few weeks and was beginning to worry that I was getting rusty.  (Artists reading this: does that happen?)  Also, I ended up adding the foreground tree in the studio because of that wind.  But I think the piece turned out pretty well, and I’ve added it to the Plein Air page.

Easter Monday’s piece won’t be going there (in fact, I don’t think I’m going to finish it), but that wasn’t really the point.  It was one of the first days that the sun really felt warm, and going out and looking for something to paint was mostly just an excuse to get out in it. Balding winter tires and the accompanying vibrations kept me from taking my car on the highway, so I headed over to Nose Hill Park and found a little pool of meltwater reflecting some bare trees and a mild sky.
I probably looked a bit weird, facing directly away from the mountains and painting this little corner up against a heap of gravel that looks like a moraine but is probably a remnant of the time when that corner of Nose Hill was a gravel pit. And it was warm enough that the bumblebees and various unidentified flies were out, although there weren’t any mosquitoes.

But I didn’t think about either of those things very much at the time. I was just remembering how profoundly relaxing plein-air painting can be. I realized pretty early on that the piece wasn’t going to be one of my best, and just enjoyed it anyway. Without the pressure to complete something presentable, there were just the spring smells of mud and meltwater, the rhythm of the brush on the canvas, and the warm sun transforming everything, bringing it to life.


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