The pandemic has prevented me from getting out to paint this year and the only reference photos I've been able to take are of the skies seen from our deck. So in order to scratch the plein air itch, I've taken to doing "virtual paint outs"—painting in the studio the same way as I do on location.
This blog post is a quick look at some of these new paintings. They are all based, in part, on a Google Maps street view.
Google Maps is a great tool for finding some new reference material, although the wide angle lenses they use create a lot of distortion. The main challenge of using this as source material is that you lose both the spontaneity of painting in the open air and the experience of being present at the location. However, you do feel less rushed and have a bathroom close at hand, so it's not all bad.
Range Road. 10x16, oil on linen. 2020.
I've been to Canada a few times, but never out to the western provinces. This is based on a street view out in the middle of nowhere, Saskatchewan.
I painted the sky with a mix of chromatic black, raw umber and yellow ochre. I ended up doing it in one single session since it is a stupidly fast-drying combination which is not amenable to good layering techniques.
Paintings like this one have a habit of getting dull really fast. They always need a bit of light—but not too much—to lift them up.
Johnson Ranch Road. 7x11, oil on linen panel. 2020.
Just outside Bend, Oregon. This was painted over the course of two days, which I wouldn't normally do in a plein air painting, but the total working time was just a few hours.
Below Grange Moor. 8x10, oil on panel. 2020.
This is a couple of miles from where I grew up in Yorkshire, UK.
I've noted in other posts how a smooth-primed panel tends to make my paint look smushy. Here, I've lessened that effect by using thinner paint than usual. I tentatively added some sheep to the painting but they seem to get swallowed up by the foreground—I don't think they will be there much longer.
Evans Road. 14x24, oil on linen. 2020.
Just to the east of the Yakima reservation in WA state.
The largest of the "virtual paint outs" that I've done to date. Like all larger paintings, this required lots of reworking before I was able to finish.
It took all of my willpower not to give in to the temptation to put something in the field. I actually tried some hay bales at one point, but took them out. After all, what drew me to this scene in the first place was actually the lack of anything at all in the middle ground.