As the afternoon passed, the sky became more animated, expressing itself in shades of gray…

Clouds over the Wicomico River, Maryland

My week painting along the Wicomico River in Maryland has been incredible.  Next October, perhaps I’ll schedule two weeks rather than one.  I’m already planning to spend one night on the sinking Holland Island.  Thousands of pelicans are now the only residents, roosting in the silver branched trees and lining the sandy shoreline facing south.  At one time there were 60 houses and a few stores.  Most of the residents took their houses with them when they left the sinking island around 1920.  The last house on the island succumbed to the water in October of 2010.

En plein air oil sketch of dancing storm clouds, 5″ x 5″, Sky above the Wicomico River, near Whitehaven, Maryland.

When I’m traveling and painting, it takes about three days for me to adjust my palette to the location and seasonal light upon the landscape.

Baccharis in bloom and pines

Though I’ve painted in Tyaskin, MD before, it’s always been in spring or summer.  The beauty of Baccharis in bloom against the autumn colors of pines, phragmites, meadow grasses and marsh is absolutely stunning.

Late afternoon light filtering through the forest

Every direction I turn, I see the opportunity to explore the autumn light bouncing off of indigenous plants, delighting my eyes with new and unfamiliar patterns and shapes.

K-car as en plein air studio

When time is short and the light is changing quickly, I skip setting up my easel.  The trunk of my K-car works just fine.

Anita’s meadow, Tyaskin, MD

I couldn’t resist one last painting as the late afternoon glow was fading…..

Baccharis in bloom and Phragmites

Just as I’m beginning to mix my colors intuitively, my visit to Maryland draws to a close.  Without doubt, I’ll return next October.  Not only is it exquisitely beautiful …… I can paint outside without covering myself in bug spray!

Color studies:  en plein air oil paintings, 5″ x 5″ on gessoed wood panels.

I have a warm spot in my heart for Muddy Hole Creek.  On my way ….. I stopped at Ellis Bay.

Ellis Bay, Maryland

I’m painting larger this time around.  I brought a view old (very old) canvases and primed the back with two coats of gesso.  I find it difficult to paint on small 5″ x 5″ panels.  Ellis Bay is about 18″ x 36″.   At about 1:30 I packed up and headed to my favorite spot at Muddy Hole Creek.

Muddy Hole Creek, en plein air oil painting

The Muddy Hole Creek painting is about 24″ x 30″.  I absolutely love the marshes!

When I first arrived in Maryland I tinted about thirty canvases and boards to have them ready for a week of painting.  I painted more than half of them with a wash of Terra Rosa, my standard underpainting color.  As an experiment, I painted eight or nine with a wash of Permanent Mauve, a color that I have not been using on my palette lately.  It is not one of the colors on my Richard Schmid Color Charts.

View of the Wicomico River, Whitehaven, Maryland

After the first day of painting I found that the Terra Rosa underpainting was too warm and didn’t work as well with the colors of the landscape around me.  After the third day of painting I had used all of the canvases and boards that had been washed with the Permanent Mauve.  Those paintings were more satisfying.

the second wash on the remaining panels

As I became more tuned in to the marshes, I liked the Terra Rosa even less.  It’s great for the farmland surrounding me in New Jersey, but doesn’t make it for me in the Chesapeake Bay area.  After setting up my easel at Broad Creek, I brushed a wash of Permanent Mauve over the remaining Terra Rosa panels and let them dry in the sun on the trunk of my K-car.

En plein air easel setup at Broad Creek

Here is my Broad Creek setup.  This was the last of the canvases that had been originally washed with Permanent Mauve.  It felt as if the marshes painted themselves over this underpainting color.

Close up of painting and palette at Broad Creek

That big glob of cadmium red on my palette remained a big glob throughout the week.  I used this color the least, only a touch every now and then to tone down the greens.  Viridian took the prize for the most used color.  Thanks to the Richard Schmid Color Charts I was able to use it to mix all the various greens as well as some gorgeous purple/lavendars ! with it.  Viridian and Alizarin plus white surprised me.  I had forgotten that the mix can lean toward purple.

With all of these new color experiences in mind, I will experiment with other underpainting wash colors to create various moods and illusions of light.

Painting:  painted en plein air, 5″ x 5″ oil painting on gessoed birch panel washed with dilution of Terra Rosa oil paint. View of the Wicomico River, Whitehaven, Maryland.

The contrast of the sky and the spring grass along the Wicomico in late afternoon is stunning.

Late Afternoon along the Wicomico River, 5″ x 5″ oil painting en plein air

I preferred the underpainting of Permanent Mauve to the underpainting of Terra Rosa for most of the Maryland plein air oil paintings.  The Permanent Mauve works better to suggest the brilliant light in the area of the Chesapeake Bay.  For me, the Terra Rosa only worked for the mid-day paintings.  Even then, I preferred the Permanent Mauve.  I’ll be experimenting more with variations of underpainting washes.  It’s great to get a head start on the mood of the environment with a quick underpainting wash!

Painting: 5″ x 5″ oil on gessoed birch panel.  Painted en plein air.

The variations of greens in the landscape is both fantastic and challenging.

Muddy Hole Road, en plein air landscape oil painting, 6″ x 12″

The day was overcast, the light beautiful yet flat.  The challenge was to create the illusion of space within areas of similar hue (green) and similar value (mid-value range).  I premixed about eight piles of greens on my palette, variations of warm and cool greens of slightly different values.  With these piles to easily dip into, I responded more intuitively to the landscape in front of me, not having to stop to refocus on mixing paint.  I easily varied the mixes by adding a bit from other piles without being concerned that the new mix might not be harmonious. I could focus on what, for me, is a bigger challenge …… painting the tops of trees where the light flickers through between the tips of branches and leaves  revealing bits and pieces of the sky.  It is so easy to get overly fussy and create stiff-looking trees.  I was pleased that I retained the airy feeling of the trees in this little painting, as well as the cool green grassiness of the phragmites leaves in the foreground.

painting: plein air landscape, oil painting, 6″ x 12″ canvas, painted over a terra rosa underpainting wash.

The larger palette worked well for pre-mixing my colors during my recent visit to Maryland.

Painting en plein air at Muddy Hole Creek, Tyaskin, MD

I secured the palette to the easel’s palette shelf with bungee cords and clamps.

Palette secured to easel palette shelf

When it started to rain, it was easy to disassemble and pack back into the car.

A minimal setup

After a short shower, I went back to painting, using only a chair and the ground.  Both setups worked well.

Set up along Muddy Hole Road, Tyaskin, Maryland

I set the palette up to be to the right, not directly below my canvas.  Though I scrape the palette after each session, I don’t clean it with turpentine as I used to do.  It is helpful to have hints of other color mixtures still on the palette to judge my new mixtures against both for hue as well as for value, especially if I am trying to mix a color from the previous day.

Broad Creek along Muddy Hole Road, Tyaskin, MD

I was able to mix better colors for the marsh grasses at Broad Creek by comparing them to the colors on the stained palette.  My Richard Schmid Color Charts are indispensable when painting in a new area.

Painting: en plein air oil painting, 6″ x 12″ on canvas.