Painting Along the Columbia River

Astoria, OR plein air, gouache in sketchbook

I took a short walk this morning and realized there was no wind blowing along the Columbia River bank. Most of the time, there is a stiff breeze coming off the ocean and river. I decided to go back to my apartment and grab some plein air painting gear and a folding chair and do a bit of painting. I am trying to remember the last time I painted plein air. I think it has been over a year! It has been quite a year at that. It was good to get out and paint but, wow, it was a challenge!

I am primarily an oil painter but I like to dabble in a different medium once in a great while. I wanted to keep my gear simple so I grabbed my gouache and a watercolor sketchbook. As the day was warm, and I was sitting in full sun, I struggled with the paint. I am used to the lovely flexibility of oil paint. The gouache pretty much dried within minutes of putting it on the paper. I really had to work at getting the clouds to look soft enough. I finally ended up just using a wash to push them back where they belonged and to reduce the hard edges. I kept at it and managed to finish the above painting. I will have to look up how to paint clouds with gouache as I will need a different approach than when I am using oil paint.

I actually enjoy using gouache. Since it is an opaque water color paint, it can be layered much like oil paint. It can be used more transparently as a wash or glaze too. I must admit, I felt pretty clumsy with my paint application. I am definitely out of practice! In spite of all the challenges with painting, and with being out painting in a public place again, I am really happy to get out and paint!

I will have to get out on a beach and paint a wave this week. I miss my “office” by the sea. If anyone has returned to their art practice after a long absence, what have you done to help you ease back into your practice?

Yours in truth and beauty, -Renee

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