What a fabulous day to be outside in NYC! I had the day off from classes today, I could have stayed home and cleaned the house, or cleaned my studio, or finished the last large Naples beach painting…instead, I took the opportunity to go into the city to paint!
Just so no one thinks I was being totally self-centered and irresponsible, I did need to get a plein air painting done of the city for the upcoming Salmagundi Plein Air Exhibition later this year, so that’s what I did. I had a specific objective in mind–Bryant Park and the area around the NYPL. I got in around 9 a.m. and walked from Penn up 7th to 42nd St. (I had another little secret side mission, but that’s a secret). From there, I headed east on 42nd to Bryant Park. Before choosing a spot, I walked around the park and New York Public Library’s entrance on 5th Avenue–I really want to paint those lions one day, but the light was not on them, that will be an afternoon adventure for another day.
Anyhow, I was a little disappointed because the fountain in the park was not running, and the light today was a bit harsh. However, I did find a nice tree lined path with some bistro tables along its sides, a perfect spot to set up. One thing I learned about myself today is that I absolutely cannot stand to carry a lot of equipment. I have my plein air kit pared down pretty well, but it needs to be reduced by half for painting in the city! I did not use my easel or tripod, so those could have stayed behind. Less is definitely more when it comes to plein air in the city. Also, I am finding I enjoy sketching more than painting on location–while I need paintings for exhibition, I seem to really be in a sketching mode these days–pencil, charcoal, pastel, watercolor crayons–anything that is extremely fast and portable works best for me.
I spent about 2 hours on the painting above, I did the pencil sketch first which took about 10 minutes, maybe 15. I set the sketchbook up on the table so I could refer to it while blocking in my painting, that helped to remind me how I simplified some of those tree shadows and shapes. This was a very challenging piece–so much going on all over the place. I concentrated on the shadows on the path, the little stone urn with the plant on the right and the sweep of the trees. You have to know what your painting is about in order to make it work and hold together!
Looking at the piece now that I am home, I may do some MINOR things like add a bit more paint in a few places, hit my dark values one more time as well as the highlights. I prefer to keep my plein air pieces true to the moment, so I will do any adjustments purely from memory and my pencil sketch as opposed to photos. The point of today was not necessarily to create a fabulous painting, but to enjoy being outdoors in a wonderful setting and to get that feeling to come across in the painting–if I did that, then my mission was accomplished! 🙂