Day 3 of the 30/30 challenge — Sun on Cypress plein air process

Painting by Rachel Murphree

Sun on cypress watercolor, based on plein air sketches and studies. 8″ square. $45

Here’s Day 3 of the 30 paintings in 30 days challenge. I’m calling it “Sun on Cypress” and it is a result of plein air painting in my back yard.

I listen to a wonderful podcast called Artists Helping Artists and a recent interview was with Anne Blair Brown who is a huge proponent of painting outside (plein air) or at the very least from life in a still life, rather than from photographs. The few times I’ve been outside painting, I have thoroughly enjoyed it, so I gave it a try in my back yard.

see the white strip of tape I've put on. It says 5 x 7" to the right, 8 x 10 to the left

see the white strip of tape I’ve put on. It says 5 x 7″ to the right, 8 x 10 to the left

I went out and sat comfortably in the shade (very importantin our 90+ weather) and used my view finder to view what was around me DIFFERENTLY.  A viewfinder can come in many forms, from a square or rectangle cut into a piece of paper, to a plastic square with a window that opens to varying degrees from rectangle to square, to just cupping your hands in a squarish shape and looking through.  It really helps me isolate what might be interesting to paint and attempt to keep it simple.  When you are outside there are so many details that you have to filter out.  The photo on the right shows a viewfinder, and I’ve done the math to figure out where to open the window so that the inside will scale up to 5 x 7 (at the right hand side of my tape) and 8 x 10 (on the left side);

rough sketches

thumbnail sketches to get lights and darks

So here are some brief steps in the process.  I made rudimentary sketches with a black pen in my sketchbook trying to get the darks and light values that intrigued me.  The diagonal dark through the picture and the shape of it on the right.  the repetition of the tall cone shapes of the italian cypress and the varying light on them from the sun.

Rough study painting

Plein air study 1 of sun on cypress

Then I painted two rather quick sketches (on lesser quality paper that I happened to grab, won’t do that again) to try and work out the order and process of painting the various shapes.

After reflecting on it, I tried it again with arches paper inside, and ended up with the finished one above that I’m happy with.

Thanks for dropping by, and if you’d like to leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

2nd rough painting study

Plein air study 2 of sun on cypress


6 thoughts on “Day 3 of the 30/30 challenge — Sun on Cypress plein air process

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