Monday, July 15, 2013

Progressive Plein Air from the Dallas Heritage Village

This past Saturday I made my third trip in the last four weekends to the Dallas Heritage Village in Old City Park. This was in preparation for the upcoming plein air show, Following Frank Reaugh: a celebration of plein air painting

My subject this time around was the old Pilot Grove Methodist Church. It was built around 1895 in the small community of Pilot Grove, Texas, southeast of Sherman. I decided to take progressive photos along the way if you care to follow along.

#97 Pilot Grove Methodist Church - 14x11 oil on panel

In the upper left corner you will notice a subtle hint of downtown Dallas peeking above the roof line. It was important, in my mind, to find a scene that included some "old and new" elements. I'm always looking for contrasting subject matter. It's so subtle that it probably won't be noticed right away, but that's what I like about it. Paintings should never tell the whole story in one quick glance. 

My location. This building would make a really cool house. It was hot outside, but I hardly noticed because I had lots of shade and a nearby fountain providing sounds of cascading water.

I started my outline with a round sable brush and a little cad orange and burnt sienna. I find that this color combo can come in handy later in the painting if I need a few glowing accents here and there.

I begin placing a few of my darkest values. This is like working on a clay sculpture as I define and carve away the negative shapes.

More dark values, and just a hint of the building peeking over the roof line in the distant skyline. I also throw in the outlines of two people standing in front of the entry. I usually try to add some size perspective and people work well for this. And, they are easier to paint than the banister behind them.

Here I freeze the moving shadows like a camera freezes the moment. From here on I have to try to ignore the changing light and go with this time of day. This blue looks strange here, but once I add the sunlit areas of the wood it will hopefully begin to look natural.

I begin blocking in some local color and some of my lightest values. Notice how the same blue as above now looks less blue and more natural. Some of that might be my camera's doing, but you can see how the added color has changed the way your mind perceives it.

After four hours I'm near the finish line. My goal is always to work faster than that, but the majority of the painting was done in three hours. A few touches here and there and I'll sign it. This is where I can get into trouble if I start reworking areas that don't need it. I've ruined many paintings that way. You can see here and there, that I've left some of the original orange outlines for some subtle highlights in the trees and nooks of the building.


  1. As someone who is not an artist, I loved seeing the progression of your work. Great rendering of our beloved Pilot Grove Church! --Melissa (Interim Executive Director at DHV)

  2. Thank you Melissa. It was a great way to spend the morning, in spite of the heat.

  3. Very nice! Thanks for sharing the process.


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