St. Croix River Rocks | outdoor painting at the water’s edge.

River Rock, 8x10", oil on panel, by Jeffrey Smith
River Rock, 8x10", oil on panel, by Jeffrey Smith
I know what you’re thinking, “Did he do a painting of a pile of rocks sticking out of the water?” And yes–yes, I did do a painting of a pile of rocks.  More specifically, a pile of rocks–maybe sandstone–in the St. Croix river.   If you  grab your atlas, or punch it in to Google Earth, you can see that the St. Croix river is the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

I drove all the way to edge of the state and all I got was this rock.

My major artistic goal for the summer has been to paint plein air, or outdoors, as much as I can and develop a process to start a painting.  A component of the Summer 2009 plan has been to work on my drawing skills and concentration when I am outside painting.
Looking at things from a drawing stand point, I don’t know if I could have picked a more complex scene than rocks–half in, half out– of a moving river.  Throw in some dappled shadows from the trees lining the river bank behind me, and you’ve got a painting challenge.

You rocked it out; what did you learn?

There is a lot of visual ‘stuff’ going on around you when you’re painting outdoors.  I am finding, more and more, that I’m most excited about paintings that take ideas or artistic principles and illustrate them in a very definite way.
I think this painting  has once again underlined the idea of picking something that really interests me when I am setting up to paint outdoors.  I know that I–and possibly other plein air painters– have been guilty of picking the easy or the obvious spot.  You know.  The spot in the shade or the one near the car… When it came to my set up today, I had to hike for it.  Not that hard physical labor needs to be a component of plein air painting, but finding a spot that inspires or at the least holds your attention seems to be a great way to up the chance of creating a successful plein air sketch.
I’m still pushing and I’m still learning.  I am thrilled with this simple painting because it is just that–simple.  And isn’t that a lot of the appeal of plein air painting–to end up with paintings that capture a feeling of space and time-of-day in a way that looks effortless and simple?