Monday, February 28, 2011

Chilly River

© Hannah Phelps
W.I.P. of Water in Two States, Piscataquog River
oil on board, 14" x 18"

I painted outside the other day for the first time this winter. I've been busy creating inside as the snow piles up outside my windows - working on some big canvases from outdoor studies and carving/inking more white-line woodblocks.

Friday, New Hampshire got smacked with another storm. The next day the fresh snow was too much for me to ignore any longer and I had to get out there with my easel. Despite what everyone around here fears, this stuff isn’t going to be around forever and I need to paint it while it lasts.

I’ve shared the result at the top of this post. The Piscataquog River runs through my town, so short trips in any direction offer nice views of it. The painting still needs work, but I am pleased with what I have so far.

I cheated a bit with a trick I’ve wanted to try for a while. Before I left the studio, I used a photo of the river that I took a week ago to draw some thumbnails. I picked one to enhance into a value study and then drew that composition right onto my painting surface. When I arrived at the painting spot, I could just set up and paint without worrying about designing the picture. I already knew what my overall value play would be and where I wanted the river. With that shortcut, I was able to get a really good start on a mid-sized surface in an hour and fifteen minutes.

And yes, I did get cold and that is why I stopped. This is a bit frustrating, because I do know better. I was wearing my fashionable navy blue quilted coveralls, so my body was toasty, but my toes and fingers were numb and hurting. I have good boots and good socks, but I don’t have the special boots painter, Stapleton Kearns, recommends. I meant to get a pair for this year, but I haven’t yet. Maybe next winter.

I know how to keep my hands warm, but I rushed out without the proper gear. If you want to try painting outside but are afraid your hands will get too cold, the trick is to wear a sturdy heavy mitten on your rag hand because you don’t need dexterity to wipe a brush. On your brush hand, wear a thin or fingerless glove and keep a chemical warming pouch in your pocket to easily warm up your fingers when needed. Wristies work really well too, because they sort of collect heat in a little aura around your fingers. 
Another great tip a little league coach once told me is to smear moisturizer or petroleum jelly on your hands and use latex gloves to keep warm without getting too clumsy. He said it was the best way to keep a grip on baseballs and bats during early spring practices. It works for brushes too. Plus, your skin will be silky soft when you are done, if you care about that sort of thing.
Winter seems to be sticking around, so you may as well go outside and try to enjoy it....


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