Mud Puddles | Jeffrey Smith

Mud Puddles | plein air painting after the rain

There is nothing better than a bright morning after a big rain storm. I guess that’s not entirely accurate — I suppose there are better things, but a great morning is certainly right up there.
Last Sunday I made my way back over to the Trial and Display Gardens on the grounds of the University of Minnesota. I figured why not since I had had such a great time painting in the gardens the week before and the parking is free on Sundays. ( The University has meters everywhere. There is something fascinating and frustrating about the idea of paying to park at a corn field.)

I’m here, but what am I going to paint?

I’ve been on this new-found quest to paint things that I haven’t painted before. In the spirit of that, I arrived on scene and was taken by the mud puddles that remained on the service road from the rain the night before. I wasn’t sure if I had painted a gravel road leading into a corn field before either, but as long as I had at least one new thing in a painting, I thought I was ready to go.

Painting water is like painting any other reflective surface. You just have to paint what you see. Don’t over think it. Match the values, match the colors. Just paint the shapes. It reminded me a lot of painting shiny metal still life objects. So I channeled my ‘artist within’ who loves to paint silver canisters, jars, and pitchers, and set him to work on the reflections in the mud puddles.

So, what did you learn?

I think my only complaint is that the puddles became only a small element in the painting. I like the picture as a whole, but could it have been better if I had zoomed in on what was drawing me to paint the scene? There is always next Sunday!

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