The musings of a fantasy illustrator. Artwork, art-talk, and randomness.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Plein air: Cloister Park, Winter

Winter in Summer, well almost. I attempted to go out for a day of plein air painting back in February. While living in England, I had hoped for some snow that would stick so I could paint outdoors in the snow. It never did, but I got out to paint anyway, only to discover that the freezing temperatures and bad surface conditions foiled my attempts. I retreated, tail between legs, and finished the painting in the studio.

You'd think I'd have learned a thing or two about painting outdoors in the winter. I am, if anything, stubborn when it comes to things I want to do. Maybe the more appropriate description is dumb as a rock. The jury is still out (which just means I don't want to admit to the latter).

In any case, it was by all accounts a long and unseasonably cold winter in NYC this year. Long periods of snow, which did stick, and which piled up. So, I thought I'd go out and paint at the nearby Cloister Park. There's a very nice European medieval building there (really, it's actually European...in Manhattan). However, the light during the time of day I was out was pretty flat, so there was no good angle really. So as I trekked around, I came upon this bend in the path. My wife says I sometimes pick odd things to paint when I do landscapes. What she means is this scene isn't the point of Cloister Park--there are 3 scenic highlights within the park that are meant to attract attention, and I suppose most folks would go for the easy bet and paint those. But the light raking through a stand of winter-naked trees off-frame to the right, on a ridge above the path, was interesting. So I set up and started painting.

If I was smart, I would've brought gloves. Perhaps the jury is in after all. The strong winds pushed the total chill to about 20F. About every 15 minutes I had to stop and warm up my fingertips. I got nowhere fast, and after barely blocking in the composition, my brain caught up with reality and I packed it in. I hadn't brought my camera (verdict: guilty) because I intended to simply paint outdoors. So I walked home, grabbed it, and headed back out to take a few shots. Then I finally went home.


12x16" Oils on Canvas (purchase details)

Over the next few days, I started in on it again when I had some time. As with the England landscape, I figured I'd make it a tighter finished piece, perhaps not as tight as my illustration, but something in-between, which would allow me to play a little more. Work caught up with me and I had to put it away, with not even a full day of work left on it. And so it waited for a few months. The cold weather finally broke, we got our late spring, and just as the humidity is rising and the temperature climbing, I was able to pull it out to finish it up, cognizant that it would be difficult to get in the mood to paint snow as summer sweltered on.

 828.333.4733   New York, NY