Hollyhocks and Corn Fields | plein air painting at the University of Minnesota

Hollyhocks and Crop Fields, 8x10", oil on panel by Jeffrey Smith
Hollyhocks and Crop Fields, 8x10", oil on panel by Jeffrey Smith

I got a call on Sunday morning from my mother asking if I was out plein air painting yet.  I was off to a late start, but I figured  she wasn’t at church either, so we were even.  Neither one of us was doing what we normally would do on a Sunday.  It turns out that she was planning on going to the late service, and was calling to see if she could come painting with me.

Painting can be a very solitary endeavor– which sometimes is great– but there are certainly times when it is nice to be around other people.  I told her that I would love to have her join me, and asked if she had any great ideas about a location for our outing.  She suggested the Trial Garden at the University of Minnesota.

One of the things that I think is awesome about living in the Twin Cities is that you can stay right in town and easily find yourself in a pocket of  woods or by a very untouched section of river or–as in this case–a little plot of country life.  The U of M, St. Paul campus, houses a very large School of Agriculture and Horticulture and, while I’m not sure what the difference is between agriculture and horticulture, I do know that they produce some fantastic gardens and crop fields.

For the painting above, I positioned myself right on the edge of the Trial Garden with several crop fields acting as a back drop.  I had to be strategic in picking a vantage point in this garden.  The university experiments with different plants or hybrids to see if they can stand up to the weather in Minnesota.  The result is clump after clump of beautiful plants.  These are wonderful to look at, but I think it could easily become too much of a good thing in a plein air painting.

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