The Northwest Experience

The bags are unpacked, the laundry’s done and it’s time to reflect on what I saw. The weather was fabulous, around 90 which was refreshing for us, but not the residents of Spokane, Washington. Seems it was an unusual turn of the thermometer for them.

We experienced the raining ash in the sky and campfire like smell from the nearby forest fires, some close enough to see as we drove along the freeway. Our main purpose was to visit family so painting time was minimal. I did get an opportunity to paint however when I made the sacrifice to forgo a 35 mile bike ride, in order to just walk around and see what I could find to paint.

My plans were to start in the backyard, which contained all sorts of rich vegetation, than work my way into the nearby field. I never made it to the field as there were just so many interesting colors and textures in the yard.

Washington Pears by Diane Eugster
Washington Pears by Diane Eugster

What did I learn? That painting outside, even in the shade, gave me a false sense of the values. I should have known this from taking photos outside and inside. Even the brightest room inside can’t compare with the amount of light in the shade outside.

When I brought this painting indoors, the midrange greens were way darker than they appeared outside, so I needed to make adjustments later to lighten them up.

It was also hard to decide how to begin the painting;

• Should I put in the brightest color and work duller from there? Maybe, but there was a huge leap from the brightest color, the pears, to the leaves in this instance.

• Should I have started with the dullest color and work brighter? Don’t think so because this painting was more about a strong value pattern, but this is how I approached the other painting below.

• Should I put in the darkest darks and work up from there? This is the way I decided to go, although in this case, I started too dark, which I will remember to compensate for the next time.

Little Mountain Town by Diane Eugster
Little Mountain Town by Diane Eugster

We spent two days in a cabin in a little Canadian town called Rossland. I was inspired by this view from the cabin window.

There were so many subtle tones in the distant trees and roof tops, I used the method of laying in the most distant tone of the violet mountain, than working forward with more saturated color, while keeping the values close.

All in all it was a fantastic experience, being outside I also learned a lot about simplifying what I saw, there just wasn’t time to dwell on anything, put it down and move on.

It’s was nice to veer off the subjects I normally paint, although I feel I can use these lessons to enhance my figurative paintings in the future.

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