Plein Air Diary

Short posts about Debbie’s plein air experiences in a diary format. She shares anecdotes,thoughts and ramblings of her experiences while plein air painting.


Diary of a Plein Air Painter #17


As Summer Fades

(Click to Enlarge)

6x6in. Oil on linen/panel.

Available here.

Sunday , September 3, 2012

Grant’s Lake, Nova Scotia.

11:15 am-3:00

Ian has accompanied me to one of my favorite places close to home. I love this old farmstead. It reminds me of childhood days when we played outside on our trips to Cape Breton. Even the sounds of flies and insects bring back fond memories of frolicking in nature on my great uncles’ property.

Today was one of those days that I ended up wiping off my panel after an hour of painting. The light had shifted and I just wasn’t happy with my efforts, thus it was better to stop rather than continue on with something I was not going to be happy with in the end.


(My Set Up.)

(Click to Enlarge Photos)


(The artist hard at work!)

After a little picnic with Ian, I decided to attempt a new subject in a different spot. This time I settled on apple trees reaching for the sky with their red fruit glistening in the sunlight. I continue to be attracted to limbs and leaves that fade up into the sky. It reminds me of when I was a child laying on the ground and gazing up into the blue above.


(My second subject of the day–the one I actually finished.)


(Painting of my subject on outdoor easel.)

The dance has begun, I am in sync with my subject this time. Abstract shapes and varying values take me deeper into the process. I am in rhythm with nature again. It is a beautiful place to be.



P.S. Ian and I chuckled at the flurry of squirrels here today. They nosily jumped from one apple tree to another. One dropped a token apple directly beside Ian’s chair! lol


(Ian trying to read, while squirrels dropped little apple gifts from the trees above. )

P.P. S I am amazed at how summer has faded away so quickly. It is sounding like fall and the air has that little coolness to it. The sun continues to give much warmth, but when it escapes into a cloud, it sure does feel like fall.


Diary of a Plein Air Painter #16


4x4in.Oil on linen/panel

Available here.

Thursday, August  23, 2012

Powell’s Point Park, Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Plein Air Painter’s Group


It is an absolutely gorgeous morning today. The sky is clear with a slight mauve hue and accented with billowy clouds. I have two members of our plein air group with me today. Carolyn Bygrave and Lacey Morrell. Lacey is my niece and a new member to our group.

After a brief chat we go off to our selected spots and agree to meet after we are finished our maser pieces! Today was one of those days where I could not pick my subject readily. Finally after some walking about I found a great spot in the shade. I have decided to paint a small mass of trees with wild flowers and grasses in front of it. I really like the pockets of darker space with the trees. I also find the masses of shaded grasses leading into light shades very appealing.


(My Subject)

I love painting the flicks of color for the wild flowers. They always appear playful and sing of cheer!


(Set Up)

I will start my painting by toning my miniature panel with terra rosa and quickly mapping in my drawing with this color as well. I love the rosy hue of terra rosa and how my colors appear over top of it. It is an appealing color when it peeks through in spots on the completed work. Time is ticking and the light will quickly shift soon. Let the fun begin!




(My Niece painting her first plein air painting!)

P.S. I love the shift that occurs when painting on location. The rustle of leaves and nature’s many sounds envelope the artist creating a peaceful state of mind.

P.P.S. Carolyn, Lacey and I had some great chats afterwards about observing subtle colors and simplifying all the information in front of you when painting from life. Thinking  about masses of color and geometric shapes is important in order to paint your subject in a short time frame. Carolyn also shared a paper she likes that I can use with oil paints. Here is the link.


Diary of a Plein Air Painter #15


(Click to Enlarge)

“A Gift of Solitude”

6x6in. Oil on linen/panel

You may purchase here.

Sunday, August 25,2012

Powell’s Point Park, Nova Scotia.


I am all alone in the park this morning. My solitude amplifies the park’s serenity. It  is a time I value greatly and think of during the long months of winter. It is going to be a gorgeous summer day which will attack park visitors before the morning closes.


(My Subject)


(My Set Up)

As I walk up the shore I am attracted to a curvature of water which leads to the ocean beyond. The tide is going out to sea this morning leaving interesting puzzle pieces of land and water. I love the contrast of the darker foliage to the right and brightness of the distant land. Sea gulls screech around e as they relish in the treats the sandbar offers. It is time to flow with nature-the light will change quickly.




(Person wading looking for Quahogs)


(Someone even took their boat along to collect Quahogs.)

P.S. As I worked several people walked by with buckets. They were going to dig quahogs on the vast sandbar. It was nice having little chats with them all. One gentleman chatted at length when I had finished and gave me the scoop on another passage to the park. Woo Hoo!

P.P.S. It is so joyous to watch and listen to nature. During my visit, dragonflies whizzed by, an abundance of seagulls soared about and the gentle rustle of trees whispered softly. Definitely a day to be grateful for.


Diary of a Plein Air Painter #14


(Click to enlarge photos)

(Final Painting-11x14in. Oil on linen/panel)

Wednesday, August 22. 2012

MacLellan’s Mountain, Nova Scotia

My brother and sister-in-law’s backyard.

Third Session


I have arrived for my third session of my plein air painting today. My focus will be to work on both apple trees and their shadows on the ground. It is my intention to keep the second  one less detailed so the foreground apple tree will stand out. I will add more texture to the one in the front.


(My Subject)


(The beginning)



Varying my greens will be especially important to maintain interest in the apple trees. Making comparisons with colors I lay down,will be something I will have to continually be aware of. I also plan on adding little flicks of color in amongst the lawn to break up the flat surface and give a cheerful feel. Hopefully, I will complete my painting today.



P.S. At the end of my session I felt I wanted the background to recede more, so I lightly scumbled a thin veil of sky color over the background trees to achieve this goal.

P.P.S. While at my brother’s place, I had the pleasure of visiting my sweet niece’s new cat she recently adopted from the animal shelter. We also had a lovely chat about art and music outside by my set up. Lacey is both a talented song writer and singer. It was inspiring listening to some of her new songs and viewing photos from a recent trip to Newfoundland. A lovely highlight to my plein air experience!


Diary of a Plein Air Painter #13

(My Setup)

(Click photos to enlarge)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

MacLellan’s Mtn., Nova  Scotia

My brother and sister -in-laws backyard.

Session #2 –10:00am-1:00pm

The sun is a bit shy today and prefers to stay behind a sporadic cloud cover. I will work on my second session of my larger plein air painting today.


( My starting point for this session)

My plan is to paint the furthest apple tree in its varied shades of green and to add sky and distant fir trees. Adding the sky and fir trees at the same time allows me to blend both sky and trees to give a more atmospheric feel. The light comes from behind the apple trees creating darker areas in the center of the tree. The trick and challenge with summer landscapes is all those greens! Close observation and patience allows the eye to see subtle shifts, along with warm and cool greens.


(My efforts for this session–will complete on third session.)

1:00pm My light has shifted too much, thus I will attempt the apple tree in the foreground when I return. It will be fun placing some of the small red apples in the trees and will be a welcome relief and complement to the summer greens. Little hits of dandelions and clover will add a frolicking feeling to the foreground. Looking forward to my third session in the near future.




( A little pit stop for my hat and painting!)

P.S. A little squirrel was my visitor today. He curiously sat close by on a branch watching me paint for a few minutes.

P.P.S. While I painted, episodes of apples and  leaves would suddenly fall to the ground as squirrels scampered up their branches. Very busy little fellows!


Diary of a Plein Air Painter #12


(Click to Enlarge Photos)

(My Subject)

Tuesday, August, 14,2012

MacLellan’s Mountain, Nova Scotia

My brother and sister-in-law’s backyard

First Session: 10:10am-12:30pm

I have come alone to my brother’s sanctuary. It is apparent that he loving tends to his grounds. The abundance of trees and grassy pathways throughout create a feeling of seclusion. It seems to hug the occupant, offering a sense of protection and peace.

It is a cloudy morning and the sun is trying hard to make its appearance. As I scout around looking for my subject, I notice that the sky is clearing and the sun has joined me for longer sessions. That is when I notice a cheerful pathway etching around the apple and fir trees.


(Set Up)

I love the contrast of light and dark greens and how the path spirals through the grassy floor. I have decided that I will paint a larger plein air painting today. This will take a few sessions. Today I will begin to fulfill a goal of painting a larger work on location.


(Toning my panel with my favorite  underpainting color Terra Rosa.)


(Feeling my way around the composition and sketching in shapes with Terra Rosa.)


(Massing in some color–basically got this far and light shifted–ready for session #2.)

12:30– I have now blocked in my painting. I took my time making decisions and getting my composition established. When I return I will be able to begin quickly since I have a solid start. I am looking forward to my next session.



P.S. While I was painting a hummingbird hovered before my face and around the area I was working. So neat!

P.P.S. There is a great sense of peace and calm today. It is very still and nature strums on around me.

Read Session Two and Session Three


Diary of a Plein Air Painter #11


(My Subject)

(Click to enlarge photos)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Powell’s Point Park, Nova Scotia


It is one of my favorite types of summer mornings, still, warm and sunny. The sky is crystal blue with only a few wispy clouds. The only deterrent is these nasty mosquitoes that seem to be out in abundance after yesterday’s rain.


(My Set Up)


(Looking over the artist’s shoulder.)

On my walk up the beach today, I came upon my subject for the morning. I love how a sparsely leafed tree drapes across the sandy beach. Interesting dappled shadows flick and dance on the sandy shore below it. The water literally sparkles in the sunlight, while a muted background allows the tree and water to take center stage. My aim is to capture the easy going nature of this beautiful summer morning. My brushes are ready….. let the dance begin.




(Painting completed on easel–will get a close up photo soon.)

P.S. After I finished painting, Ian and I watched a hummingbird and another small bird play a game of chase.


( Artist Supervisor in the midst!)

P.P. S. A small child and her mom arrived during our stay and set their beach belongings under the tree I had painted. It was quite delightful to observe their lovely rapport and listen to their laughter.


Diary of a Plein Air Painter #10


(Click to enlarge)

4x4in. Oil on linen/panel

Purchase here.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Big Island , Nova Scotia


Although the sun has appeared in and out of cloud cover today, it has been a hot summer day. I’ve decided to venture down to the shore to watch the sky above the ocean change like a kaleidoscope.


(My Subject which seemed to change by the minute.)

I am  totally in awe at how quickly the sky colors change as I paint. Visual memory and keen observation are key assets to staying focused and maintaining consistency with what I initially began to paint. If I am not careful I could chase the light and continually change the canvas surface. In the end I would end up with a confused record of what I initially began to paint.


( Set up and in progress work)


(Artist working in the golden light.)

At the end of my session the sky turned into gorgeous pinks and mauve colors. That will be another time of  night I hope to capture in the future.




(Subject when we were leaving.)

P.S. The air was balmy when I started painting and the wind was on the other side of the shore where the harbour lies; but towards the end of my session the wind came up and it became a bit chilly.


(Ian relaxing while I painted.)

P.P. S. It was  nice to have Ian’s company tonight. We enjoyed watching a person kayak past us during our stay.


Diary of a Plein Air Painter #9


(Click to enlarge photos)

(Took a quick photo of my painting the next day as it was too dark when I finished.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

MacLellan’s Brook, Nova Scotia.


It has been a hot summer day. Since the temperatures are so pleasing I decided to visit the brook. I love listening to the brook babbling over rocks and flowing merrily along. It seems not to have a care in the world and continues its rhythmic  journey.


( My Subject)

On this early evening I am struck by the light that sparkles along the surface and the bursts of light upon grasses and foliage. The light will change quickly, therefore I will have to work really fast tonight.


(My Set Up)

I continue to be amazed at how the human eye sees the subtle changes in color as compared to a photo. A photo doesn’t pay tribute to all those soft sublties that nature presents in reality. Painting en plein air continues to be one of my best teachers.



P.S. As late evening approaches, I find myself checking my surroundings and being very conscious of unusual noises. Being alert is an important trait when painting into late evening!

P.P.S. By the time I was leaving, the sun had dipped below the horizon creating pink hues that consumed the sky above.


Diary of a Plein Air Painter #8


4x4in. Oil on linen/panel.

You may bid on this painting here.

(Click on all photos to enlarge)

Thursday ,  July26,2012

Big Island, Nova   Scotia

7:00 pm-8:35pm

Although a bit cloudy it is a very pleasant evening. The wind has subsided and transformed into a light breeze. I will have to work quickly tonight as the evening light is forever changing. The simplicity of land and sea catches my attention. My eye is attracted to the dark land mass and the bright sky above it.


(My subject in the distance and set up.)


( My subject)


( Sky drama that occurred while I painted– located to the right of my subject.)

I have decided to paint a miniature tonight. Keeping colors fresh and my shapes simplistic will be my main focus. It is easy to overwork this subject; therefore, I must make every stroke count. The mosquitoes will invade my space soon, so I must start to flow some paint!




(Painting on easel–close to completion)

P.S. Ian accompanied me tonight and we had the pleasure of meeting a lovely couple from New Hampshire tonight. They had kayaked from the campground across the harbor and were visiting the beach tonight.  My new friend Karen became enchanted with observing the artist at work and took many pictures while I painted. If the painting wasn’t wet she thought she would have liked to take it back in her kayak.


(My subject when we were leaving)

P.P.S. My husband Ian took his golf club to the beach tonight to practice some swings. In his exuberance he not only practiced swinging the club, but lots of sand too!! I had to move him further away from the Artist’s Zone! lol


(My enthusiastic golfer!)


Diary of a Plein Air Painter #7


Nature’s Power, 6x6in. Oil on linen/panel.

You may bid on this painting here.

Tuesday, July  24, 2012

Big Island, Nova  Scotia


Well it has certainly been an adventure of sorts today! While heading to my location, I ran into a detour on the highway which took me approximately 30 minutes away from my destination. Once I arrived the wind was exceptionally strong! …

Strong gusts of wind and sand have joined me while I paint. At times I am literally forced to hang onto my easel causing me to retrieve materials with one hand. The wind has become stronger since my arrival and mother nature and I are battling for control.


(My Subject)

Big Island is a mesmerizing place to paint, I am captivated by its wild and free spirit. Surrounded by the ocean it changes its personality at whim. Today I am attracted by the light that dances and ripples across the dune grass. In contrast violet shadows heighten its brilliance.


(Click to Enlarge)

(View in the opposite direction. You can see the windmills dotting the mountains.)

Everything seems to be moving today. Billowy clouds soar across the sky and speak of impending thunder showers. There is no time for needless thought, only intuitive decisions and a rhythm that only nature can express.




(My safe haven by the pylons–a little way down the beach from my subject)

P.S. Unbeknownst to me a couple arrived while I painted. I am sure they chuckled at me as I made exclamations of distress as I tried to keep all my belongings in tact. The sweet man took pity on me as I packed up to go and carried a couple of my bags back to the car for me: indicative of the friendly nature of this area.

P.P.S. Sand and bits of dried seaweed literally swirled around and at me as I painted. Oh the perils of plein air painting!


Diary of a Plein Air Painter #6


(My set up.)

Saturday, July21,2012

Powell’s Pt. Park, Nova Scotia.

9:20am – 1:15pm

Warmer temperatures were a welcome companion after cooler days. I have earned this awesome perch today after trudging down a rickety and worn out pathway. Lifting my cart over fallen trees and stepping through overgrown brush preceded my arrival. But, oh the reward is this beautiful view of one of my favorite pieces of land in the park.


(My subject –love this mass of land and have painted it often.)

It is quiet and calm this morning. The rising sun has created a bit of a haze, muting background colors. Today I have decided to paint on a narrow rectangular surface. It seems a fitting choice for my subject. As I set up, the ocean gently laps along the shoreline, creating perfect nature music to paint by!

I love hearing from you! Do you have a favorite place in nature?




(The Start)




(Just needs a bit more tweaking.)

P. S. A person in a kayak quietly passed by as I painted, oblivious to my presence on the bank.

P.P.S. Towards the end of my outing while writing my reflection, a man climbed the bank where I was sitting and startled both he and I! Definitely an unexpected visitor!