Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nag's Head Woods

6"x6" oil on Masonite
My first plein air painting.

I've been putting this off, because I'm terrified of painting outdoors - it's so difficult to frame the scene. I decided to bite the bullet while we were in Kill Devil Hills last week. I visited the Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve. It's a gorgeous area with several trails. The one I chose was very steep and difficult and never resolved into a view of anything. So I picked a spot where I could at least stand on flat ground and painted the backlit trees - that's a scene I'm familiar with, given the several renditions of Grove of Trees I painted recently.

The result wasn't the best painting I've ever done; it was a little flat. One mistake is that I used Sap Green as a shortcut—no more greens from the tube ever again, they never look right. But my setup worked great, and now I've broken the ice with plein air painting. Later I touched up the painting in my studio (below), and I'm pretty happy with it now. It looks like I completely repainted the scene, but really I only spent about five minutes improving the contrast and adding a few more tree trunks.

p.s. If you visit the Woods, I highly recommend the Roanoke trail, which we walked a few days later, sans painting equipment. Gorgeous scenery; a smooth, flat trail; and it ends at a little beach on the sound. It's marked as "moderate" on the trail guide, the same as the tortuous Sweetgum trail. It has to be a typo; there is a world of difference in difficulty between the two.

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