Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Foundry - Sutter Creek Plein Air

On a whim early this morning I called my artist friend Howard Rees to see if he was free for some plein air painting.  Fortunately he was!  And to add to my last minute luck, at an art event the evening before, Julie Trail had told Howard she would be painting at the Foundry in Sutter Creek.

We met there in the most incredible spring weather....I think it reached at least 80 was calm and the skies were clear and blue.  Wow, what a day.  Amazing.

The Foundry is actually a collection of buildings.   It is no longer in operation, but I think the history dates back to the Gold Rush, when the Foundry built mining implements.    It's a great collection of wooden buildings.  Unfortunately, they are pretty neglected...and in a decade or two, I'm sure they'll be gone.  But in the meantime, what a wonderful plein air subject.

We had a great time painting and then repaired to Pizza Plus in Sutter Creek for some absolutely delicious pizza, and, of course, an ice cold 24 oz beer.   Things don't get a lot better than that.

The Old Foundry - Sutter Creek  Oil on linen panel  12"x16"
When I got home this afternoon, I took the painting into the studio for some final touches.  As often happens when I paint in bright light, the painting overall was a bit dark.   I lightened the side of the building, which .helped define the structure a little more clearly and also reduced a large dark area.  I also added a few suggestions of greenery above the roof line.  I had originally painted some very light -almost white - sky there to separate the roof from the burnt umber tone I had previously applied, but it was too intense and distracting.  Adding the green and gray tones calmed it down and allowed the building to come forward.  Finally, I added some interest and texture in the near surface of the road and around the painting in general.   All in all, the time in the studio was probably less than 20 minutes.

I'm pleased with the painting.  Again I tried to plan before I started by doing a small sketch of the composition and the lights and darks.  I wanted to resist painting and then correection, painting and correcting, painting and noodling.  I blocked in everything with Transparent Maroon and Ultramarine Deep.  After my first block in, I did not like the size and location of the building, so I wiped out most of it and blocked it in again.  That's a real advantage of blocking in with transparent color line and wash on a non-absorbent oil primed panel.  Once I had it as I wanted it, I began to add color and to define shapes with restated darks as much as possible.  There was a lot of jumble and junk around the area.   I felt it was critical to capture the feeling of that junk without getting caught up in rendering it.  It's interesting how much you can suggest without really painting anything specific at all.  Those intense darks in the foreground junk also made for some great contrast with the light areas in the foreground as well.   I love the effect of that gives such life and energy.  This painting was a lot of fun. 

My Art Site: Bruce Hancock Fine Art


  1. I like the design, it really works
    and the color harmony and balance

  2. Hi Neil....those comments are appreciated. Thank you. Sometimes when painting these wonderful old buildings, the sheer fascination with the subject matter makes it easy to forget simple basic composition. I'm trying more and more to go slower in the beginning and think a bit before diving in. Again, thanks for the boost!