Tuesday, August 6, 2013

How I build a plein air painting

I painted this beautiful house during this year's Frank Bette Plein Air Paintout in Alameda, California. I thought some of you might be interested in seeing my process.  The painting is on exhibit now through September 28 at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts in Alameda.  Visit www.frankbettecenter.org for details.

My subject -- a beautiful historic home at the corner of Pacific and Benton in Alameda, California.

I often start with a charcoal drawing like this. Here I've swiped it with a paper towel to knock off some of the charcoal dust, to keep it from mixing in too much with my paint in the next step.

Next I reinforce my drawing with acrylic paint and erase any remnants of charcoal. 
Here's the first stage of my underpainting.  I use transparent washes of color, very similar to a watercolor technique, to establish a warm glow and set up the light/dark pattern.
In this middle phase I'm gradually adding some opaque passages of color to solidify form and pull the painting together. Even in the opaque areas I like some of the colorful, translucent underpainting showing through.
Here's the finished painting.  Although my colors are pretty wild, I feel they were inspired by the warm, friendly spirit of the house and neighborhood.


  1. I am always at a loss when comes to plein air. You make it look so easy! Your painting is so beautiful!

  2. I must confess, Kaethe, I too am at a loss when it comes to plein air. I have to figure it out fresh every time! Thanks for liking my painting!