Tuesday, July 3, 2012


     I thought I'd go up north a little ways to where it was cooler to paint. The dogs and I arrived at Groom Creek, only about an hour drive up in the forest right outside of Prescott, AZ. Jack took off running at full speed through the cool forest. We hike as far as I could go, it was at least a few miles...then sat down, set up and just looked around from that spot for something to paint. I wasn't moving another foot. I just picked out this tree pattern on a hill with some sky behind. It was not something I normally paint, nor did I followed my regular scene decision process, but I loved it. The air was clean and cool with a pine scent and it was a challenge.
     To me, painting outdoors is very different than painting in the studio from photos. I think many times I prefer a bad painting done plein air than a masterpiece done in the studio. The outdoor piece touches me at a deeper level. The studio piece is more technical, detailed, and thought out, but the field study is more poetic. Painting from "life" with an added time element forces the painting to be fresher and more spontaneous with better color. I also like the challenge of painting outdoors. The simplification decisions that must be made as the light rapidly changes the whole scene. I am right there as time is passing during my painting process, I'm interacting with nature. The information available from Nature gives me a million times more options than a photo reference.
James, Jack, and Lexi   Groom Creek Forest
           This spot is not too far from where a good friend of mine used to have a cabin. The dogs and I would often come up and hike here. There's a small lake nearby, that I often have trouble finding. That's whey we hiked so far, before collapsing on the forest path. Notice we found a nice shady spot.


  1. Great posting. Lots of good information reminding me of the importance of painting directly from nature. I really like the comment about how connected you feel while painting, how much "in the moment", a state of mind that can be elusive.
    Great painting. I like the purple shadows, yellow ground and great value range.
    Inspiring all round.

  2. I really appreciated your expressing your thoughts about painting outside. It is exactly how it feels for me. I just love being out there with the plants, animals and weather for that stretch of time. And the poetic quality of a plein air piece as opposed to studio work. I never thought of it that way but it seems so true, at least in my paintings.
    You chose a really appealing color palette. Fresh and lovely.