Tuesday, February 5, 2013

One Above ... Below ZeroTemperatures!

The blast of deeply cold weather continues to have "Rockapolco"... and most of Ontario it would seem, in its frigid grasp. The temperature was hovering at a cold -25C this morning, as I headed out to paint en plein air. Fortunately...there was no wind at all... and even better the sun was shining and the sky was a perfect azure blue . Perhaps it was this "perfect" combination of pluses which motivated "such a  foolhardy decision"... my wife's expression) to risk a trip "out there" for a paint.

Again... I had gotten up earlier to watch the sunrise, as it would form the first prerequisite for a decision to go or not. I had another "idea" ready for a studio-driven undertaking, in the event the weather turned up to be unacceptable. I prepared my gear using the same drill as always: squeeze out sufficient clean pigment on a clean palette... enough for one painting, get all of the necessary gear ticked off -  paint box, brushes, easel, extra toned panels of varying sizes, towels, brush cleaning container and a drink... Pepsi for today! I loaded the gear into the car and started the van to give it time to be warm and cozy before setting out.

Everything loaded aboard, I headed westward up the Parkway about two kilometers to the spot I had decide earlier to paint at today. I had wanted to paint this many times... but today... my focus for the outing and the challenge of the day was to paint from above... looking down on the subject , as opposed to being at the usual eye level perspective. There is a pull over/lookout area designed for visitor picture-taking opportunities, but strange as it might seem... I had it all to myself for the entire painting session! HA HA! I did have occasional chickadee support from time to time, but for the most part the morning was completely quiet and the solitude was grand.

The lay in on my burnt sienna acrylic ground started out and  moved along quickly and smoothly right from the start, but about three quarters of an hour into the session, my paint started doing strange things. In all truth, I have never experienced this impass before during the deepest cold outings of my past experiences. My buddy Frank and I once painted in the Gatineau Hills, north of Ottawa back in the eighties... and the temperature on that weekend dipped to -39C. We both completed two paintings each... both of mine were large 20x24 inch canvases. Perhaps, the answer lies in the fact that I recently switched from regular turpentine spirits as my thinner and medium to an eco-friendly "green" version. I was truly glad that I had (wisely) opted for the smaller 10x12 panel, as opposed to the much larger 20x24 incher!  A cardinal rule for winter painting en plein air:  You manage the process... not the other way around!

In any event, that frustrating factor which prevented me from applying paint ... except to trawl it on with a painting knife, hastened my decision to pack up and go home to finish up. It could also have corresponded to a very rapid drop in temperature at that time in the morning I found out later in the day from a friend. Whatever the reason, I did pack up after a little over an hour and a half and returned home. I immediately put on the coffee pot... had a chat with Deb... warmed up and then retreated to the studio to work on the "unfinished symphony."

Lay in stage of completion... when the cold kicked my tail back to the studio to finish. No problem... all of the necessary structure is already in place... so why freeze one's "dummers"... or other "more vitals" off??? HA HA!!

"High Requiem ... For Winter Along the River" - plein air sketch on a 10 x 12 inch toned panel

It was a good decision in hindsight... the paint really flowed nicely and the image of the site was still really vivid in my mind. I chipped away at it pushing and pulling tones... made darks and lights adjustments and worked up the foreground area to provide a sort of screen... which I think adds depth and a heightened sense of elevation. I will leave it to you to decide if I managed to pull it off. I had fun... and my Challenge has an additional member added! Life's as good as it can be... at -25C!

Stay warm... and stay tuned! Hope that you are getting something you can use on your own journey!

Good Painting!... to ALL!!!


  1. Totally stealing your word, "dummers." I work with guys and I suspect they'll get a laugh. Anyway, Bruce, I'd have been more than over the moon with what you call the "lay in" piece had I painted it. That said, your finished version is even more spectacular! Smart of you to head to home and hearth and warmth!

  2. Good morning Sherry!... You can laughSherry... but frozen "dummers' are no laugh believe me!

    What you see in the lay in part of this ... or any piece that I am workinbg with... is a point wher I have recorded the essentials to consolidate my initial interest to select a subject.

    It is after this point that the process becomes purely creative. That is... what lies in front of me no longer bears any real importance to me simply because the "meat" of my "idea" and my direction is in place. It can be finished there... if conditions or mood permits... or be carried back to the studio for further consideration and finishing... as this one was.

    Being way from the scene actually improves the final outccome in my view. The final response comes from the memory of the experience... from the heart and the eye working in tandem.

    Thanks for your visit and encouraging comments.

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,