Just returned from a successful Telluride, Colorado plein air show. It turned out nice since the torrential thunderstorms thankfully abated for the three days we had to paint, plus the two-day outdoor sale. In the short time we had, I was curious to find the scene from the front of my web site titled “Los Gatos.”
Normally, I first paint on location, then do studio pieces using the plein air versions as reference. This time it was the reverse. The painting “Los Gatos” was done from photos taken two years ago in Telluride. I thought it would be interesting to see how this would develop in plein air. Finally finding the alley after driving around for a while, I realized the light was all wrong. I spent the morning and afternoon doing two other paintings waiting for my alley to play out. At about 6pm the light was starting to rake across the structures and those cool shadow areas of the gravel and weeds were becoming wonderfully luminous. This painting is all about those strips of light, so I began by massing in the shadows that were already appearing. As the light began to diminish and hit the focal areas, I indicated those highlight color notes quickly. I wanted to make sure I knew the values before they disappeared. I finished off the shadows next, keeping them simple and then returned to the highlights to complete the painting around 8:30pm. In my original piece, I added the cats to finish a scene that seemed to need a bit more interest. In “Eight O’Clock Alley” above, the light contrasted so well, I felt the painting made the statement I wanted. That’s usually how I determine if a work is finished. Adding people or animals to this piece would take away from the beautiful light qualities that developed. In “Los Gatos” the highlights were more minimal and adding some cats gave the focal interest to lead your eye around.
In revisiting this scene, I chose a slightly different angle and canvas size so as not to just duplicate what was done before. I feel a painting has to be new and fresh each time, painted for the right reasons and not simply trying to relive past glories. Enjoy!