Monday, July 6, 2015

Storing and Transporting Panels

When it comes to transporting wet panels or storing them in your studio there are a lot of options out there  (Raymar  Judson Art  Guerrilla) as well as several ingenious ideas that artist have come up with.  The basic idea that I use came from one of the Suggested Donations Podcasts, but I can't remember which episode.

This how I carry panels in my bag.

In the studio I take a wine cork (I like the synthetic ones best) and slice through it at 1/4" intervals until I have 4 to six little cork circles or chips.  I then cut the circles into fourths.  A straight razor blade works well for this.

I use 4 to 6 of these cork corners to separate 2 equal size panels. One or both could be freshly painted.

I place the panels with the wet surfaces facing one another.

I then use a strip of inter tube to tie the panels together. This works great for short painting trips or one day outings.  I'm hoping to eventually build a panel rack for the cab of my truck for longer trips.

This is how I store panels in the studio.

It is the same concept as the corks except I'm using strips of wood cut from excess panel material.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

"Summer Produce"_Oil_Painting_by_John_Kelley

"Summer Produce" by John Kelley
6" x 12" Oil on Panel

Sometimes I have left over pieces of panel that suggest a painting to me.  I had some of these 6" x 12" leaning against the wall and when the summer produce started to come in they seemed just about right for my needs.  As always, the digital version is way oversaturated compared to the actual piece.  I did try to bring the saturation down but going to far always does other things to the photo that I don't like.  Real life is always better both visually and in every other way.  I often wonder if this internet generation is going to look back on life in their old age and have no real memories....not sure how I got off on that tangent.  Anyway, I got to spend all day yesterday with these wonderful little miracles. I hope I did their beauty justice.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Learning To Paint Outside - Part 7


"Your only as good as the miles of canvas you've covered"

I'm not exactly sure who originally coined this phrase.  It has been attributed to recent artists, but I have also found very close versions of it in a couple of books who writers have long since left us. Whoever came up with it unmistakably went through the sludge of failures to discover a way of seeing and doing that produced the visual results he was trying to achieve. In the book "Outliers" you see this same principle impacting all areas of endeavor, but it is not just mechanically putting paint on a brush and covering miles of canvas the equals results. It is seeing a problem and doggedly attacking it until it is solved. The interesting thing about painting is that the visual miracle in front of us presents millions of these problems with multiple solutions.  So if you try and deal with all the problems, via all the solutions, your painting turns to mush and your brain melts.  So I am working toward simplifying these problems and in the past two weeks I have made some paint altering discoveries.

Below is a painting I did on the edge of a pond last Wednesday (if you follow my Instagram feed, this is the one I was working on when the snake wandered up behind me). It is a great example of what happens when I get overly concerned with trying to figure out  the local color of individual shapes rather than comparing and seeing relationships.

I will go back to this location
to see if my new epiphanies help!

It's amazing how your brain can deceive you in the frenzy of trying to capture something.  I thought I was doing pretty well on it until I started to pack up. I put the panel in the bed of my truck, packed up the rest of my gear, glanced over at the painting again and realized it was nothing like what I thought I was painting. The drawing isn't to bad but the values and color temperatures are chaotic. So driving home I was asking myself, what is it about midday situations that is so difficult?  Here is what I concluded.

  • The values are closer at midday
  • The color temp's are closer at midday
  • Every color is heavily influenced by one color at midday
I'm sure someone has taught me this along the way, but apparently I wasn't ready to listen.  As I drove home observing the landscape around me I realized everything was being impacted by the blue-grey of the sky.  In Alabama in the summertime, that blue grey has a larger influence because of our high humidity and the weird high hazy clouds that are almost always filtering the light.  Even the darkest of shadows are being impacted by this. So values and colors that are very close together because of the midday sun are even closer together (and softer) due to the humidity and haze.  So in the morning and evening a warm light, cool shadow relationship is apparent but at midday the relationship is extremely close.  None of this would have saved the painting above but it did give me something to experiment with my next time out.

NOTE: Digitally, these paintings look nothing to me like the original as I view it with the natural eye. Talking about color temperature and value in reference to a digital photo is difficult at best.  Often some of my best paintings look terrible in the glow of the screen and my terrible paintings look much better than they are.  I first heard about this unnerving aspect of digital life in a Suggested Donations podcast with artist Vincent Desiderio.

So on Sunday I went out to the practice range (my go to location when I want to be left alone to fail) and tried a little experiment. I should have photographed it step by step but wasn't thinking it would amount to much at the time.

Before I went out on location I tried to come up with a blue grey color that looked like what I saw influencing everything.  I tried Ult Blue greyed with Ivory black, Ult Blue greyed with Tera Rosa, and Ult Blue greyed with Trans Ox Red.  With each of these I also did a 4 step value scale.  If these had not worked I would have then tried some different blues that I don't use very often.  After it was all said and done The Ult Blue and the Trans ox Red was the closest to what i was seeing. I then went out to the practice range and first did a complete value study just using the blue-grey.  I then painted directly on top of it and the painting above was the result.

The painting still does not have the feel of light that I'm looking for but the approach definitely brought the painting into harmony and simplified making decisions.

The next day I left at about 6am to go paint in Eutaw Alabama for the day.  I was really excited about what I had done the day before and the hour long drive gave me a chance to think about how I was going to adjust the process to not have that overly grey feel.  So my approach on the next two paintings was to use Ult Blue and Trans red transparently to define the shadow shapes and then add color shapes to the lights and adjust the shadows with a very limited introduction of other local colors.  Here is what I came up with.

To me these are much closer to a real feel of light. Each painting is 9 x 12 and took around an hour and a half to paint.  They are by no means to the level that I am trying to accomplish but I feel like they are a large step forward. 

In these two paintings I also tried using a transparent wash of blue for the sky rather than blue and white.  It really helped the pure blue to stand out from the blue-grey elements and to provide clean enough color to introduce warms that read well.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Learning To Paint Outside - Part 6

Learning Through Failure

The good news is that I've been able to get out and paint 20 times this spring and early summer.  The bad news is that I will probably burn all but three of these.  Here is what I feel like I've learned so far through the process.

  • If you are going to paint in the south you have to learn to deal with an overwhelming amount of green.  It's much easier to paint it on a grey day when it is almost all a variation of sap green.
  • The warm cool contrast of early morning and late afternoon are the easiest to discern but leave you very little time to make the discernment.
  • The blueish grey that influences everything midday makes it very difficult to discern the warm cool contrasts but you have more time to do it (and it's hot!).
  • Sight sizing has brought my drawing up a notch or two.  Can't believe I didn't use it 15 years ago when I started.
  • Compare, compare, compare, compare, look at everything together with every decision. Hard to maintain that level of concentration but it will look like mud or chalk if you don't.
  • I cannot stand painting on a grey toned panel outside.  I will burn those paintings first.
  • I know next to nothing about color
  • It would have been nice to go to art school
  • I love painting on a white or very, very lightly toned orange panel.
  • I like working with thin paint and flat brushes!
  • A long sleeve cotton shirt with no t-shirt underneath is cooler than a t-shirt. Materials that wick away moisture are warmer than thin cotton.
  • $200 boots that fit are well worth it!
  • Painting below 9" x 12" just frustrates me with the shakiness of my hands.  Trying some things to make that better.
  • A set up that fits your  needs and your personality can keep you happy even when things are not going well.
  • I have a new found admiration for those who regularly nail their paintings outside.
  • It is really hard to be honest on a blog when you know the whole world is capable of seeing your mistakes, but I'm sticking with my commitment to document this process warts and all. Many of the above fall into that category. It also is very freeing to not be in bondage to the tyranny of advertising yourself to be something your not. 
  • If every painting I did outside was a failure I would still do it for the pure pleasure of the process!
I'm hoping to get a full 2 days on location next week.  Stick around to see how that turns out.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Converting My Open Box M To Use For Sight Size

The Open Box M , in my estimation, is still the best little pochade box being made (although I severely modify it in this post). Several competitors  have come out in the last few years, all of which seem to have different advantages, but none of these advantages have held enough weight to tempt me to change and for many of these new boxes the weight is the problem. I love my Open Box, but  when I began to use the sight size method this spring, it became fairly apparent, that using it without modification was creating to many line of sight issues. You can see in the photo below that though it can be used to sight size it doesn't leave the panel standing alone in space, which I prefer.

Opening the box to a completely vertical setting did provide a clear view of the panel and palette (a parallel palette) but it also had much more give due to my cheap tripod. So here is what I came up with.

The total weight of my set up with all my gear and one 9 x 12 panel is 18.3 pounds.  Keeping my gear under 20 pounds is my goal.  I find that this is more than light enough to do a great deal of hiking without compromising my painting needs, but if you are really into lightweight backpack painting you should check out Marc Dalessio's 11 pound setup.

My new setup involves a lot of clamps and bungie cords.  I would imagine that for most people this would be to much of a pain, but I've found that spending a few extra minutes setting up really doesn't impact the overall time needed to do a painting (unless it's a light effect that will be gone in five minutes).  I've actually found that putting everything together gives me a chance to relax and get focused.

The first thing I needed for this conversion was a tripod that stood tall enough to keep my panel at eye level.  I'm not very tall, so I opted for a 72" model polaroid tripod I found on Amazon.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I hope to eventually replace this with a carbon fiber version that will last me a lifetime, but it is not presently in the budget and this one works great!

I then came up with a way to secure my panel to the board that is screwed into the quick plate.  The 9" x 6.5" board is just simply a panel with a block on the back that has a a 3/8" screw adapter that I got at Home Depot.  I've glued a ridge to support the bottom of the panel and use small bungie cords to provide downward pressure from the top.  This has worked out amazingly well.  It's very cheap and I can paint to the edge of all sides of the panel except on the very small ridge at the bottom. (NOTE: the downside to this is that if you are not paying attention a bungie cord can turn into a projectile!)

I have to carry several bungie cords with me if I am varying the size of my panels but what surprised me is that this little setup can hold up to a 16" x 20" panel very rigidly.

If the panel is shorter than the board you can go
around the edges.

Mounting my Open Box M to the bottom of the tripod proved a little more tricky and what I do only works with the cheaper easels that have support bars that connect the three legs. The support for the box is essentially a piece of plywood with a hook cut to go around the center post (you could also use some of the commercial versions for providing a support).  The board is secured with three bulldog clips or one pony clamp on the hook.  I didn't like the bulky nature of the pony clamp so I recently switched, but there are several types of clamps that would work.

The board is 13.25" x 11" and fits easily in
my backpack

Bulldog clips can be found at office supply stores
but are much less expensive online

I then open my pochade to the natural angle of the tripod and board to secure it with three 10" bungie cords, two connected at the bottom and one on top.  There is enough tension between all these elements that the only play is due to the quality of the tripod (and it's not enough to notice).  For me it has been more sturdy than anything I have ever used, with the exception of my studio easel.

You can see in the above photograph that I added screw eyes to create a place for the bungie cords to connect to the hooks.  You can also see in this photo how the board extends behind the box. This is where I store my extra brushes in a rolled up bamboo brush holder.  I hold most of my brushes in my left hand.

One of the other things I mentioned in my "Weight and Worry" post was that I no longer hold a roll of paper towels in my hand but rather I connect a terry cloth rag to the portion of the poached box that is normally used to hold the panel.

I fold the terry cloth over and stick it between the tripod legs and the box which holds it in place. In normal wind conditions it works just fine (haven't dealt with anything to brisk as of yet, another cord would do the trick if things got dicey!).  The only problem with this has been the panel posts that stick through the slots on the box.  In removing those I discovered that the area on the back provided just enough space for a homemade 9" x 12" panel holder!

Since I no longer use Turpentine to clean my brushes while painting, the only other thing this setup needed was a spot to put my Liquin and palette knife.

The slot is to secure it to the bottom section of
the box

worms eye view of the connection, bearded sage looming

the border is there to keep me from knocking
the bottle over. So far it has worked.

My palette knife is not pictured here but I
stick it between the bottle and the box.

The backpack I carry all this in is less than perfect, though it does have a lot of room and is an L.L. Bean tank.  I have trudged it all over the place and it's not even close to wearing out.  At some point I will buy another one that has compartments that are more suitable to my needs, but for now I just separate most things with Ziplock Slider Bags which have worked great and are very easy to open and close.  I think the bag itself may be a significant portion of the weight that I am carrying, but I have yet to weigh it separately to find out.

Here is a list of the other items I carry

Brushes - this is one of my heaviest items, I carry a lot so I don't have to clean while painting.

Paper towels in a Tupperware container -  These are cut into fourths and I only use about one whole paper towel a session to clean my palette with.  I formerly stored these in a ziplock bag but they were to hard to get out quickly.

Paint - I keep these in a plastic container for easy access. I would like to be proficient enough to keep just a few small tubes (paint weighs a lot!), but not having to mix orange, purple, and teal saves me time, and the two greens have proven very useful.

Windshield Shade - To keep the sun off my palette

Leathermen Tool - Heavy, and would like to leave it out but it seems like something always comes up.

Latex Gloves -  Not so much worried about the poisons, but I'm just REALLY messy.  So I put the gloves on first thing and take them off last thing.  A little hot in the summer.  I still manage to find Viridian on things I haven't even touched... can't figure out why it's alway Viridian!

Sketchbook - So far I haven't used it this year.

Welders Glass - Recommended by Marc Dalessio, keep forgetting to use it.

Mechanical Pencil / Eraser - (see sketchbook)

Liquin - I keep this in an old Bayer Aspirin Bottle.  Has never leaked.  This would go into the category of they don't make things like they used to.  Look for your containers at antique stores!

Plastic Grocery Bag - I throw my terry cloth rag and paper towels in this at the end of the session.  There is a useless front slot on my backpack that I slide used paper towels into while painting... well I guess that makes it useful.

I keep bug spray, sunblock and Turpentine in my truck.  I've never been away from it long enough to keep them in my bag.

I hope that you find this helpful. I realize that my use of the Open Box M no longer resembles it's original intent but I still love it's light weight design, it's hinging mechanism and it's adaptability.  It's common sense construction made it really easy to modify and wood just makes me feel good.

Metal Tea Kettle

Metal Tea Kettle 7 x 12
Oil Painting
by John Kelley

This is my first attempt at using sight sizing in the studio (or I guess I should say 1 to 1 sight sizing).  As with the outdoor paintings it has slowed down how I draw but sped up the process due to the accuracy. This is also the first still life I have done this small in relation to the actual size.  Sort of a mini-painting.  In order to do a 1 to 1 sight size painting as large as the objects themselves I would have had to put the panel directly parallel to the setup.  Some of the academic ateliers teach this method with great success. I find all that walking back and forth to be painful on many levels.

I really struggled with the values on this one until the very last sessions.  For me that always goes back to the desire to paint what I know.  There was so much detail in the metal pot that I thought I needed to define it all (which for me equals putting in a lot of small shapes of the wrong value so you can see them).  I finally scraped it all off, darkened the essential values, put in a few touches for the apples and told myself to stop. There are still a few things that need to be worked on once it dries but for the most part I'm please with this experiment.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Learning To Paint Outside - Part 5

plein air painting by John Kelley

Below is a great shot to show just how quickly the light changes late afternoon.  I know everyone knows this but I want you to feel my pain!

plen air painting by John Kelley

The  over riding thing I'm learning about painting outside is that I am simply not fast enough. Sight sizing has sped up the process of drawing.  Keying has sped up the process of keeping the values in a doable range.  Yet color mixing is just ridiculously slow and I end up having to hit some of the bigger shapes many times to get them close, along with the fact I am very slow on the palette itself.  I became aware of my "slowness" in color mixing when I did the series of black and white portraits for a friend.  I couldn't believe how quickly they went.

So I reverted to a more broken color, thin paint technique on this painting and though there are still some major issues, it is one of the few paintings I've done since starting this that have not died when brought back inside. So with that I was well pleased. I may actually go back out to this location later today to see if I can bring the shadows on the road in line with the rest of the painting.  I believe the time factor is why there are so very few really good plein air painters out there.

In being forced to paint a certain way, I'm finding out a lot about my natural tendencies. I've done two other paintings this week trying to stick religiously to blocking in big puzzle shapes first and it has been really frustrating. I believe part of the problem is that I first learned to paint in pastels and when working in pastels very few strokes were put down as a final mark until the very end of the painting.  I was always thinking in terms of layers and the effects of broken color.  Another way of saying it is that, in pastels, if you do not have the exact value and color in your set (which you almost never do) you have to either mix it on the support by layering or create a visual illusion with broken color.

Example of a pastel done in layers
by John Kelley

When working in the studio, adapting my pastel technique to oil painting has not been a problem because there is usually  a  large amount of time available to complete the painting and I can also paint over the top of dry layers if I desire. Below is a close-up example.

This is a close-up of "Childhood Friends"

By the way, there are some very good painters out there who do not use the big puzzle shape technique advocated by so many.  Here is one that I would love to study with.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

By Far The Best Artist Podcast

I'm always looking for things to help with the boredom of the studio.  These podcast by Antrese Wood are fantastic and they have already provided me with many  things that have informed my work.  Here are some of my favorites.

Israel Hershberg Part 1
Israel Hershberg Part 2
Connie Hayes
William Wray
Peggi Kroll Roberts
Hollis Dunlap

All of the interviews are worthwhile, these just stood out.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Learning to Paint Outside - Part 4

Here is the updated painting after 3 days of trying to get the same light.  The original post is below.

It occurred to me the other day that someone following through this series of paintings while I try and learn some things might be a lot like listening to a child learn the violin.  If so, my apologies.  I've decided to spare you the really terrible ones, or the ones that I just don't learn much from.  For example the painting I attempted before this one was a shot a painting a sunset.... I really don't know how anyone can paint quickly enough to do that from life.  You literally look down at your palette to mix a color and find that everything has changed when you look back up. The one thing I learned from that attempt was that painting on a floating dock can make you sea sick.

On this one I've diverted from my third observational goal mentioned in the first post (big puzzle shapes). Big shapes has by far been the most difficult goal.  Most of the time the complexity of the scene before me has been difficult to brake down into a few shapes and even when they are obvious it is just really hard to do.  I'm not giving up but the painting today was done with more of a broken color approach.

Sight sizing is still proving to be one of the most valuable tools I've ever come across and worked well on this painting.  I keyed the painting to the brightest sun spots in the trees and the reflections off the water, though these shapes were so small I'm not sure how effective it was.

As you can tell this one is not yet finished.  We have been dealing with mostly cloudy days and I have tried to discipline myself to avoid making big decisions when the clouds roll in.  Today I was very tempted to paint what I remembered of the river beyond the tree's but since I will be here for a couple of days I thought it would be better to just try again tomorrow.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Eliminating Weight and Worry

what it looks like after a 4x6 painting.

One of the most frustrating things about painting in oil on location is the amount of stuff I have to carry.  Earlier this spring I went to a wilderness area that required a good deal of hiking in order to get to where I wanted to paint.  I knew ahead of time that I was going to take this little trip so I tried to come up with a way to get rid of my two most frustrating items: bulky paper towels and a heavy container of turps.

The solution was a combination of things.

#1  Instead of carrying paper towels I use terri-cloth rags.  I usually go through about 1 side of a rag during a painting and by clamping it on the flat surface above my palette I am able to use every square inch of it, plus I don't have to touch it with my hands - much less messy.

#2  I no longer carry any turpentine.  I use Liquin to thin my paint and I deal with the need for clean brushes by holding a bunch of them in my left hand. If I put the brushes in the freezer, at the end of the day, I really only need to clean them once a week.  I clean my palette with a palette knife and carry paper towels cut into fourths for the finishing touches (I will use the leftover Liquid to get off the last little layer of paint)

One other thing I do is only carry small tubes of paint.  Paint add's a great deal of weight to a kit.

I can now hike several miles with my outdoor kit.  The only limitation becomes what kind of shape I'm in.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Studio Work - 1

I'm doing a lot of experimenting these days.  I've really never been able to settle on a technique and stick with it for long.  There are just to many possibilities to explore.  Though I am trying to be a little more disciplined at thoroughly working through an idea....but working through ideas generates new ideas and then suddenly your far from where you started.

So at the beginning of last week I reworked my painting "Empty" even though I thought I was done.  It just kept calling to me from the far wall, "I need a little something".  Here is where it stands and it may just end up being one of those things that never ends.

The other painting I worked on last week is a completely different approach.  Big shapes, large areas of value, quickly painted.  I'm so happy with this start that I may just stop in order to have a continual piece on encouragement an possibility in the studio.

Learning to Paint Outside - Part 3

Out of the three books I have on Monet I have only purchased one.  The other two are of that large art book variety which you have to build a special shelf for because they are so large (if there is ever a nuclear explosion I plan on hiding behind them). Those two books sat on the shelf for several years before they were finally cracked open because everything by Monet I had seen in print, to my eye, looked horrible.

Then one year I got to take a very quick trip to the National Gallery  of Art in Washington D.C. I had limited time so I immediately asked for direction to the Sargents, Vermeers, and Frans Hals.  While journeying between the paintings of these great artists I stumbled into a gallery where one of Monet's haystacks hung. It literally stopped my breathing.  I was stunned by the beauty and the contrast of walking out of a gallery full of extremely well painted value paintings to this explosion of color.  It wasn't that the color was overly saturated but that it shimmered and moved and as a result it moved my opinion of this great artist.

From that point on I made it a point to always look at the Monet.  Yet, most of the time I am disappointed because a good deal of his work is more about the road he took getting to the haystacks, popular tree's and lilies, yet without the struggle paintings these would have never come to be. The one book I did buy,  "Monet by himself", is primarily the reprinting of his letters written throughout his life and in them you see this struggle to reach the vision he has in his heart and how life, money, and ego constantly get in the way.  It is a great reminder that most of what we do is learning, with the occasional painting that gets closer to the standard we are trying to achieve.

I recently heard this idea reiterated in an interview with Kevin MacPherson on the Savvy Painter Podcast.  In it Kevin claims that only one out of ten of his paintings reach his standard.  Somehow knowing he is batting 1 for 10 makes me feel better about my 1 for 100.  Press on!


- I got out of bed and went painting
- I kept the values in the higher range by keying the painting to the sky and sticking with it
- Before the clouds moved in I was getting a nice feeling of mid morning light.
- I was much more disciplined about the drawing on this one (the blobby piece of land to the left being the exception


- the value and look of the water's surface changes instantly on a partly cloudy day and the wind helps as well.  The value of the water  shape started out darker than the sky, then would become brighter than the sky and then equal to the sky.  Visual memory is key in making these things turn out because nothing stay's the same on this type of day.

-the bee's and bugs which were in the grapevines above my head change the amount and strength of their buzzing with the change from sun to shade.  Pretty cool.

- Keying the sky a little darker would have worked better (i think).

- High sun, high humidity = a lot of greying which I found extremely difficult.


- Really struggled to get the big puzzle pieces to relate and the more I struggled the more I lost the drawing

-That big blob on the left.  Not enough time spent there.

-A day that goes from sunny to partly cloudy to cloudy is really difficult to paint on.  Thankfully most Alabama days are like this (sarcasm).  Maybe I should become one of those urban night painters!


80 degrees 
61% humidity
partly/mostly cloudy

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Learning to Paint Outside - Part 2


It seems like the quest to learn something is often met immediately with resistance.  Halfway through writing my first post,  Learning to Paint Outside,  I injured my ribs playing frisbee with my 12-year-old.  The first week it was impossible to paint. Now, toward the middle of the second week, I have no problem being at the easel, but moving gear is still difficult and sleep is hard to come by,  but improving. On top of this it has rained almost every day since I decided to blog about learning to paint outside, so this may end up being about learning to paint in the rain (there's a book I have yet to see: "Painting in The Rain").  It's almost as if life is asking if I really want to do this by presenting me with excuses for not moving forward.  My answer must be yes, because here is post number 2!

Today's Painting

I'm fortunate to have a brother-in-law that own's  a small farm next to the Black Warrior River.  Though there are not a lot of spots on the property that I would consider for large scale paintings, there are an endless number of views to practice the 3 observational skills I mentioned in post number one.  I stopped and parked at the very first spot that seemed appropriate without thinking to much about composition.


80 degree's
66% humidity
mostly cloudy
Painted between 10:30 AM and 12:00 AM
The painting itself took less than 45 min.


When ever I get the chance, I paint out of the back of my pick-up truck.  It keeps the bugs and dogs off of me as well as providing a great ready-made table to put my stuff on so I don't have to keep bending over (very helpful when you have bruised ribs). Also, in theory, if I am ever painting in a questionable location I have the ability to leave quickly!

The distortion from the camera lens makes it look like there is no room between the cab and the easel
but there is just enough space.  The negative to this setup is that I can't back away from the canvas.

One of the lessons from today's painting was not the painting itself but that often repeated reminder that I need to check my gear before going out.  I spent a good deal of the hour and a half I had figuring out my new tripod and renewing dried out paint that I had left on the palette.  I always assume I'm going to paint each day, so when I'm inactive for two weeks I end up having to deal with the results of my assumptions.  Maybe this time I'll learn.

setup to sight size

The reason I purchased a new tripod is because the old one was not quite tall enough to make sight sizing fluid.  To get the painting side by side with what is being viewed it needs to be at eye level.  This tripod is not exactly what I want (this is) but it should work great until I wear it out.

My second little lesson for the day was that getting your composition into a small 4x6 panel requires a good deal of distance between the subject and the easel.  You can make adjustments with the position of your head but it seems to be much more accurate to have yourself at arm+brush distance from your easel.  I had to scrunch my head forward to get this tree line in the compositional space and my measurements were less accurate as a result. I may need to up my size for these starts to help deal with this.

72" Polaroid camera tripod, plus homemade panel holder,
plus my old trusty OpenBox M.  My terri cloth rag covers the area
on the OpenBox M where most artist put their panel.  I normally lay out the OpenBox M
vertically with the panel in it's holder. This would allow me to have the mixing area
 in the shade very close to the panel,
but the box itself got in the way when sight sizing so I'm
back to a horizontal palette.

Three Observational Skills

Sight Sizing -  Even though I had the problems of being to close to the subject, the measuring of shapes from top to bottom was sill rather seamless, which I love.  However, for the most part I didn't pay a lot of attention to getting things right. I tended to go with my first hit.  It's really a bad habit, the carpenter's saying applies to outdoor painting as well,  "measure twice, cut once, measure once cut twice".  This is going to be my primary goal on the next painting: get it right on the sight sizing even if the subject doesn't demand it.

I blocked this in with a 3/4" flat sable,  It's my new brush of choice for starts.  I find I can draw better with flats
than filberts or rounds.  I know it's strange.

Keying -  On this one I keyed to the sky, and I can't help emphasize how much this helps deal with color intensity problems.  After laying the sky and the shadows in I really didn't have to change much of what I mixed on the palette. 

Big Puzzle shapes

This was my first shot, but the value relationships of the big shapes were not quite right.  So I readjusted and then did this.....

Do you see the funny little tree on the left and the finger prints in the darker tree?  That's me trying to do something without thinking.  It never works.  The sun came out and when I saw the areas  that could be adjusted I just started mindlessly fiddling.  Bound to happen when you are enjoying the outdoors, thinking about lunch etc...  I've noticed that a lot of people will do this and then do it some more to try and correct the mistake.  It's better to go back and repaint your big puzzle shapes before you have a muddy mess.

Above is what it looked like after redoing the large puzzle shapes.  With the sun now out there was another set of large shapes within the large dark mass but the mechanic called and I had to go!

Day's Biggest Lesson

I'm always looking for "outs".  If you are playing poker this is a good idea, but in painting it just makes a mess.  I can't avoid the hard work of painting from life: measure, compare, measure and compare again, fix what I know is wrong. Don't fiddle.

It is also going to be hard to stop when I've reached the big puzzle shapes.  I look at this and all I can think about is pushing it farther.