We all have experiences that seem to be so clear in our minds that we can feel the sun and the wind on our face. I remember every detail on that painting trip as though it was yesterday. Kathy and her husband had a cabin in Ludington, Michigan. Kathy and I decided to take a plein air painting trip to her cabin. Flowers were blooming everywhere and we took advantage of every opportunity available to us. Ludington State Park was a local attraction to travelers and to us it was an adventure. With my camera on my shoulder Kathy and I walked down a long stretch of beach to a series of islands, which were connected by a series of bridges. Everywhere we looked was a memorable photo and every day of the trip was spent hunting for the next perfect location to create. We succeeded in finding place after place to fully immerse ourselves in our surroundings to make art. We took lots of photos, did several drawings and small oil sketches, as well as several water color paintings. The trip was a success and we went home as happy and fulfilled artists with framed pieces to show for it. Some are still in my private collection.
Recently Kathy passed away and all of the sudden I felt the need to go back to those good times. I had so many ideas as I searched through my thoughts and collection of sketches and photos from that trip. I wanted to find a peaceful place to be with my memories. I could tell the story in so many ways. It was so peaceful, quiet, and undisturbed. I created a composition that would express the way I felt.
I primed a canvas with two layers of gesso and when it was dry I painted a black and white version of my vision to check the values and composition. Then I began color with transparent glazes building up the values and richness I wanted to achieve. Surprise! One of the centers of interest that I thought was important to the story was not a group of bushes, but fallen logs on the bank of the lagoon. The water was so clear and reflected every nuance of the surrounding foliage. Distance seemed to be another surprise problem to solve, which I am still working on.
What small steps can you take to improve as an artist? Sketch 5 minutes a day. Organize your research files. Photograph a still life. Do one thing for yourself each day. Anything will improve your skills of observation.