Pine Trees and the Golden Hour | plein air sketch to studio landscape painting

I have noticed a lot of blog posts about the golden hour or magic hour in plein air painting.   I think the best, and the one with a great little tool that will tell you when the golden hour is in your part of the world, is from Katherine at Making a Mark.

I had never heard the term before  and, after getting past the question of “What the heck is the Golden Hour?”,  I found what most people were writing was true: There really is a wonderful quality to the light in the last hour or so before the sun drops down below the horizon line.  I guess a similar quality occurs just as the sun is rising in the morning, but as a night person, I have never had my act together enough to be out plein air painting as the sun was coming up. This is, however,  on my list of artistic goals for the back half of 2009.

The painting above was done in my studio  from a very quick plein air study that I did during the golden hour of late two summers ago.  In all honesty, the outdoor study was awful as a painting.  The color was good, the values were good, but the drawing and the edge, not so much.

One of the challenges of working during a time of day with transitional lighting is just that–the golden light of evening transitions to night very quickly.  I knew that, with the time that I had available to paint, I wasn’t going to hit the light effect and the drawing.  I took a couple of reference photos just as I was setting up, and then again about 15 minutes into the process.  I figured that photographs could provide some sense of the shapes that I was seeing, but really would be worthless when it came to the colors and values.

08/12/2009 Update:  This painting has been accepted into the Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Competion.  I know this may not sound like much if you’re not from Minnesota, but it’s kind of a big deal if you are from Minnesota.