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Sunday, January 10, 2010

River Bend Ranch: Almost Plein Air...

River Bend Ranch II, detail, watercolor on paper, 22x22 (studio version)

Painting "en plein air" means painting outdoors and experiencing the sounds, the smells, the surroundings, the atmosphere of the scene. But at 4 degrees Fahrenheit on this Christmas day in North Dakota a couple of years ago, I just had to give up the direct experience and paint from the comfort and warmth of this bay window at the River Bend Ranch Bed & Breakfast, where we were staying.

The gray, cold morning reduced everything to just a few colors, and I tried to paint the snow-covered landscape quickly and simply. You can see on the photo how I improvised an easel with a chair on the ledge of the bay window. The completed study (image shown below) sold the same day.

River Bend Ranch, watercolor on paper, 10x14 (on-site study)

Later, back in the studio at home, I painted a second version (shown here at the top), based on my photo of the on-site sketch. Looking back at both images, I can see that the on-site study was more faithful to the scenery and conditions, even though I was not standing in the snow. I guess that still there is nothing like being there, even if you are being protected by double-pane glass. And if you can't be outdoors, a bay window might be the best next thing.


  1. Marcio, Both your on site and studio painting are great. I think that I prefer the studio one more mainly because the foreground value and texture is better and leads the viewer into the painting. Great composition. Jan

  2. Marcio, your paintings are both wonderful! Like the on side painting a bit more, it's looking more naturally.


  3. Interesting to see the "process"...good work!

  4. Thank you, Jan, that was my goal with elaborating the foreground, I might have overdone it a bit :)
    Thank you, Julia, I see your point.
    Thank you, Ron, I too am interested in insights into the process of paintings I see.
    I appreciate your visit and your input! --Marcio

  5. So, you were up here and didn't call? Huh....we natives could've shown you a thing or two about how we plein air in WC up here in ND when it's way colder than 4 degrees.......

    I suspect your REAL problem, like mine when visiting friends and relatives, is how to sneak out of the house to go and paint...!

    Still, looks great! Janet

  6. Janet, hi. This was two years ago, I didn't know you at the time : )
    But you are absolutely right, the real problem was how to find 15 minutes to sneak out! This happened again in my latest visit to family, and now with a baby it is even harder to find some time...
    Thank you for your comment!