Plein Air Painting Demo in Oils

The Truckee River between Lake Tahoe and Reno is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, whether you are a fisherman, rafter, swimmer, biker, walker, etc. there is something for everyone. I have painted the area for quite a few years as I show in a gallery just a few miles away in Tahoe City.

This painting was done in late April, after some of the winter snow was gone and replaced by the grassy riverbank. This allowed me to paint a variety of colors and textures making for a more interesting work.

The pictures at the left is close to where I did the painting, but were actually taken the day before around midday. At the time I did the painting, I neglected to take a picture of exactly where I painted! Let me just say I did the painting later in the day and it was more cloudy than these photos show. This of course, added to the mood of the painting as there were more shadows and the colors richer.
At least you get an idea of what the area looks like.
After locating the scene I wish to paint, I used a small brush to generally outline the painting. I am using canvas on board which I toned with an acrylic Transparent Iron Oxide. This color is similar to Burnt Sienna, but a little more transparent and richer in hue.
I want to capture the colors and reflections of the river, so set the horizon line high. I still want to see some of the sky, however, because it will be reflected in the foreground pool, and will balance everything out a little better.
I also changed the curve of the riverbank a little, and left out a little island in the middleground which would have made the painting too cluttered.
My palette here consists of Thalo Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Cobolt Blue, Quinacridone Red, Cadmium Red Medium, Sap Green, Transparent Iron Oxide, Cadmium Orange, Yellow Ochre, and Cadmium Yellow Medium. I occasionally use other colors, but this is my primary palatte.
I usually mix a combination of Ultramarine Blue and Quinacridone Red to form a purple. I also sometimes mix Thalo Blue and Cadmium Red Medium to get a rich gray. This is the only use of these two blues in the painting. For most of the blue tones during the painting process, I usually stick with Cobolt Blue.
My brushes are a #10 Bright for about 90% of the painting and a #4 Round bristle for the remainder.
I next block in quickly the general colors.
I first paint the sky pretty much in it’s entirety, and then use the same colors slightly darkened in the reflection in the foreground pool.
In the darkened hillside, I thinly block in with the mixed purple, Transparent Iron Oxide, and a little of the earth colors. When I paint over this, the layer will blend with the next to give it a nice rich tone.
I then block in thinly where the snow and grassy areas will be.
I then start working on the background hillside painting it in it’s entirety as I go. Using the #10 Bright, I paint the trees with a variety of colors. I start with primarily a light purple ridge in the far distance, and as I work closer gradually add more color such as greens, blues, and the yellow of the sunlit areas.
This is another shot with the hillside basically done. The far left of the hillside will be covered with foreground trees, so I leave it fairly unformed.

I now start painting some of the snow at the base of the hillside. At times I paint up into the trees and hillside to give it a little more variety. It is generally easier to paint lighter colors over dark in a wet-on-wet technique.
For the colors of the snow, I start with Cobolt Blue and white, gradually warming it up with Quin Red as it comes forward. I also gray it out in places using my gray mixture of Thalo Blue and Cad Red. 

Continuing to work on the far bank, I add more snow, plus the details of the tree trunks.
The reflections in the pool of water consists of the same colors as the background hill, but darkened just slightly with a touch of green added. I paint this very loosely, as I will later blend it with a brush.
Next, detail is added to the far pools and river banks. The foreground river bank also gets another layer of paint. Notice here, I paint both the bank and it’s reflection. Later detail with delineate between the two.
More detail is added to the river banks, and the snow. The tree on the far left is added.
In the foreground pool, I first blend the colors with a fairly stiff #4 filbert. The water swirls and eddies are also added with this brush.
Detail is added to the foreground bank. I also add some of the brush growing along the river bank.
I also work on the water in the middle ground.
Here is the final painting. It took about two hours to finish.
This painting was actually delivered to a nearby gallery the next day, so I didn’t have time to take it back to the studio for any touch-up…although not sure I would change any of it anyway!
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