Tonalist plein air painting of Drift Inn beach, Port Clyde, Maine

First Blush, plein air oil painting

The beach just a skip down the road from the house we rented in Port Clyde offered endless opportunities for plein air paintings in the early morning hours.

This morning I planned to paint a dramatic sunrise piece.

Arriving at the waters edge around 5:30, I placed my easel facing east in the gray light, intent on capturing the first rays of dawn.

In the distance the throaty rumble of a lobster boat rounding traps reverberates across the quiet cove while I set out my colors. I compose the painting in my mind, wondering how the sunrise will appear this morning.

The first faint blush of color tints the horizon. Brush in hand poised for the first stroke — the piercing cry of a gull makes me swing my head to the right.

Oh my! The scene is enveloped in a rosy luminous tonal light. Woo doggie!

Okay, have a plan but remain open to possibilities. Turn the easel, quick!

With a sensitive eye and a sure hand I search for subtle color temperature and texture changes. Here it is warm, but cool compared to this area. Here it is firm and undulating and there it is soft and quiet.

Its all there, all the art instruction a nature painter needs laid out before us. Trust in your eyes, let them be your guide. Supplement your training with museum visits. If you can, paint from the masters. Learn the fundamentals of your craft. Deepen and broaden your knowledge of your subjects. Know what you are painting and why you are painting it. Seek a moment, fix it in your mind and hold that course throughout your painting. There will be other days, other moments to paint all the beauty that fills your senses.

There will be days of scrapers and savers, but each plein air painting is a visual information deposit in your memory bank. In time you will come to value the withdrawals you make in future studio sessions.

So paint on, my brother and sister painters. The world needs more healers and makers of beauty.

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