Last summer I received a personal invitation to participate in a museum show. I of course agreed. It only took two months after the invitation to work myself into a corner. This was to be a themed show: submit a larger studio work developed from two plein air studies. So it was off to my favorite Northern California coast location in San Mateo County at Pescadero. After a couple of months, I had eight or so plein air studies and a couple of starts on a larger studio piece. But the weather was not cooperating. With very few sunny days during the summer on this part of the coast, fog generally will burn off by noon and then it will just be overcast through evening. That is, until two to three weeks following Labor Day. Then the coastal fog front recedes and the fall days become warm and sunny. Color is infused into the coastal landscape, providing the perfect setting for end-of-summer beach activities including painting en Plein Air.
Not this year. After years of California drought, off-shore weather systems were now massing early off the coast. My favorite location had lost most of its sparkle and all of its high color. I am committed to this location at this point, however.
Not wanting to start making things up, I decided to complete the project and deal with all the grey atmosphere and moisture in the air as well as light fog. I struggled through another study and then decided on something I really don’t do— a limited pallet. In addition to my four colors (Cad Yellow Medium, Ultramarine Blue, Sap Green and Alizarin Crimson), I added three separate Grey’s—light, medium, and dark. Once I established a very tight value study with the Greys, I added color. The following two additional Plein Air studies were completed:
The next task was to paint my large studio piece. I used the same process as with the Plein Air studies—limiting my pallet, holding very tight with Grey mixtures, then adding color to complete San Mateo Coast.
After completing my work for the museum show, I decided to apply the strategy to another painting at a different site. I was especially happy with Point Lobos Calm No. 2 and have since been using the limited pallet with a couple of accent colors for all of my Plein Air work.
I have just received notice that Point Lobos Calm No. 2 has been accepted to the Oil Painters of America 26th Annual National Juried Exhibition of Traditional Oils.
I think I’ll stick with this approach for awhile!