Outside Of My Box

I took a picture of my palette that day. If you look close enough, you'll find the bee that flew into one of the colors and started to eat the pigment.Not a cloud in the sky, as we drove toward Morrison on an April afternoon. It was a gorgeous spring day in Denver. After a week of feeling out of synch with most everything, I pushed myself to get out and do something different. I needed to get outside of my box.

A week ago, my uncle had called me to go out for a plein air painting session. Though, it had been nearly two years since our last outing, I just wasn’t excited to take time out of my schedule to go out, and found some excuse as to why I couldn’t go. The other night, he called me again. At first, my inclination was to decline the invitation again, but after thinking things through and realizing my reasons for not wanting to go were lame at best, I changed my mind and called him back to make plans.

Just after one o’clock in the afternoon, he picked me up from the studio and drove us west toward Red Rocks. Before we reached our original destination, we took an early exit from the highway, quickly discovering a great vantage point of the front range. After parking the car, we gathered our gear and walked a short distance up the hiking path, not too far from the side of the road. Though I would have preferred a more remote location from the traffic below us, we agreed this was the best view around. I set up the brand new French easel I had purchased a year before. The last time I did any work outdoors was the last excursion I took with my uncle and so I felt a little unpracticed in setting up.

In a relatively short time, the easel was positioned and my sketchbook was out so I could determine my composition. Finding it was surprisingly easy. My initial studies came together so quickly, it seemed as if I had not taken any time away at all. A few yards ahead of me, my uncle was already painting on his canvas.

“Hey,” he said, “what kind of blue would you use for the sky?”

I told him he should try a cooler blue, like a Manganese or Cerulean.

“I’ve got Cobalt,” he replied.

I explained that would work as well, being a true-blue with no influences of red or yellow. I walked over to his easel and found he was already mixing the blue with white to lighten up the hue. I suggested he add a touch of yellow to the mixture to really capture the true color of the sky. He added a little yellow to the palette and I showed him how to mix the slightest bit, first into the white and then into the blue so as not to turn the mixture into green. He was pleased with the results and so was I for having the knowledge to share with him.

I returned to my easel and felt on top of my game. I worked with ease, not having any expectations over the outcome of my painting. I saw the subject matter before me not as a group of mountains, but rather a vehicle as to which I could describe depth through color and value. This made all the difference in the world. I felt like I had honored the day by being outside, helping out my uncle and being good to myself.

Note About The Image: The picture above was taken as I discovered a visitor had flown into my palette and was indulging on the pigment. Can you see it?