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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.