June Lakes 2

Plein-air Painting at June Lake

     My most recent plein-air painting trip was last October to the June Lakes/Mammoth area.  The eastern Sierras is a great place to visit anytime, but the autumn is really spectacular.
     There are many scenic places to visit – some of my favorite painting areas are Silver Lake and Carson Peak in June Lake loop; Mammoth lakes (especially Mary’s Lake); Rock Creek farther to the south, leading up to the Little Lakes Valley; and to the north, the beaver ponds above Lundy Lake.
     There are fascinating geological attractions too – the mountains above Convict Lake and McGee Creek look like they were stirred up in the cauldrons of the netherworld.  There are many cinder cones and volcanic pugs, rich in minerals.
     I spent a week and did a lot of painting.  Carson Peak Autumn was done as a result of this trip (it started out as a plein-air painting).  There are lots more to come, which I’ll share when they’re finished.


Rocky Mountain Afternoon

Acrylics and Oils



     Here at News from the Studio I’ll be writing about some things that might interest you, including various aspects of my painting techniques.  It was obvious that I should first talk about the differences between my old acrylics and the new oils.
    Acrylics are a water-based paint.  They dry very quickly.  I use a lot of medium (water) mixed with the paint, using many thin layers (called glazing).  This is great for painting detail.  On the negative side, it is possible to have too much detail.  And because it dries so fast, you can get a lot of hard edges with things looking cut out.
     After 40 years or so I decided to try oils.  It’s very different to handle, and after six years I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.  I still have a long ways to go.
     I’ve had to learn to avoid using a lot of medium (like linseed oil) mixed with the paint.  As you’ve read, this is the opposite of what I do with the acrylics.  This gives the best texture for mixing and blending.  I was also shocked to find out how different the chemistry of color was from acrylics.  I’ve had to re-learn what colors to use and what to mix to achieve the final colors I want.
     I’ve grown to prefer the strength and vibrancy of the oils.  I miss the detail sometimes, but don’t want to be trapped by it.  And when I do a painting where the detail is important, like the details of the rocks in Ancient Witness, then I use acrylics.
     The best thing about the oils is it’s perfect for plein-air painting,outdoors directly from the source.  It’s given me another set of skills to learn, basically finishing a painting in a few hours.  I don’t achieve this  very often, but I use my attempts back in the studio as reference.  But I just love being outdoors in some quiet, lovely spot with the warm sun and a cool breeze,  soaking up the inspiration of nature.