Tag along for the ride

A bit more plein air

I have actually been doing a bit of painting in recent weeks. I just haven’t been doing any blogging.

This will fix that, at least for a while.

On a wonderfully hot day a few weeks ago, I jumped in the car and drove around aimlessly for a few hours. I headed down roads I’ve never been down before; out near Tambellup in the southern wheatbelt.

I ended up at the northern border of the Stirling Range National Park. It’s amazing how often I end up at the Stirlings despite having no plan to go there.

It was getting late when I saw this whitegum growing just inside a farm fenceline. There was room to park the car and to safely set up and paint. So here it is…

plein air oil painting of white gum, wandoo in western australia by Andy DolphinNorth Stirling White Gum
25x30cm oil on board.

© Andy Dolphin

And here’s the location shot. As you can probably tell, I finished just before sunset.

plein air oil painting lof tree - ocation photo in rural western australia

I’d like to do a bigger studio painting from this sketch – and I’ll have to decide then whether to still include the roll of rusty fencing wire. My gut feeling is it attracts too much attention to itself and I’d be better off with a few sheep instead.

Yesterday, I met up with the Albany Plein Air Group and found a new place to paint – at the old Albany Railway Station. I’ve wanted to paint here for a long time but on the one or two occasions when I’ve checked it out, there’s been no subject matter that interested me. But yesterday there was a freight train parked in the perfect position and in good morning light so I set up the easel and got to work.

I began by snapping a few photos, because there was some cloud around and it was likely to get worse before it got better, so I wanted a little “insurance”. Then I did a quick pencil sketch to get the main shapes and tones in my head.

After a quick chat with an inquisitive engineer who told me the train would be staying put for a couple of hours, I set to work on my painting.

Less than five minutes in, another train arrived at the freight yard – and stopped. And this was my view for the next half hour…

freight train blocks view of painting a railyard

There was no moving to a better position to regain my view as these trains are well over 500m long and I couldn’t see either end from where I stood. (Looking at it now, I could probably have done a new painting of this scene!)

So I continued painting using my sketch, the small image on my camera’s LCD screen and my memory. And things progressed surprisingly well.

Eventually the train moved on and I could see again. Things had changed a little – and the clouds were being…clouds, but I had enough information to get the job done just before my subject train moved.

freight train, railway, rail yard plein air oil painting by Andy Dolphin - albany western australiaAlbany Railyard
20x34cm oil on board.

© Andy Dolphin

For my first-ever train painting, I’m pretty happy with it. I hope to do more if I can get the timing right and find decent places to stand.

freight train plein air painting by Andy Dolphin - albany western australia

Plein air in the wheatbelt.

Yesterday afternoon, I packed the car and headed north.

The plan, as I told my wife, was “to drive half-way to Kojonup”. Koji, as it’s often called, is about 100km north from home and I ended up travelling about 55km to somewhere between Cranbrook and Tambellup. This is wheat, sheep and cattle country, and not much else.

Unlike the situation at home, the sky was blue out here – not a cloud to be seen from horizon to horizon.

I found a multi-trunk white gum just off the road, with a safe place to park and paint. I had set out with a “plan” to paint a white gum so, despite the flies and the occasional whiff of rancid cow dung, my subject was settled.

Here’s the result of a little over two hours painting.

Wheatbelt White Gum
25x30cm oil on board.

© Andy Dolphin

And here’s the “proof I was there” shot.

I used a limited palette on this one – cerulean, French ultramarine, permanent crimson, yellow ochre and burnt sienna, plus titanium white. I wanted to keep it “earthy” and play the warm tones of the dry grasses and tree trunks against the clear blue sky.

The leaf canopy on this tree was very open (you can see it in the background above) and presented quite a challenge but I was happy with the end result.

I did video the process so may upload that to Youtube when I get it edited and narrated.

Albany Plein Air Group again

I have been out and about with the Albany Plein Air Group in recent months.

Here’s a painting I did a couple of weeks ago in the Albany Whaling Station precinct.

The White Garage
25x30cm oil on board.

© Andy Dolphin

And here’s the location shot.

It was a beautifully sunny morning – hot in fact – and this white garage contrasted against the dark shadows of the foreground tree caught my eye. The white picket fence in shadow added more interest.

There’s a little over two hours work in this one – longer than I usually like to spend on a plein air piece – and all the shadows shifted dramatically from start to finish. The viridian green got away from me a little but I hardly noticed it while standing out in the full sun painting. Still, I’m pretty happy with it and I think I will do a studio version of it one day.

And here’s one from today’s visit to Wignalls Winery.

Study in Light and Shade
30x25cm oil on board.
© Andy Dolphin

I’ve always wanted to do a painting like this but have usually dismissed similar subjects in favour of more “normal” paintings, like views across the landscape. But today, this fallen stump presented such harsh contrasts of light and shade, I decided I had to paint it.

I left viridian off the palette for this one and chose to mix all greens using combinations of cerulean, ultramarine, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, burnt sienna and cadmium scarlet – though not all at once. With summer just a week away, the paddocks are losing winter’s acidic greens and taking on some warm earthy tones, so the viridian may get a rest for quite a while.

Here’s the location shot.

Thanks again to Albany Plein Air Group for inviting me along, and to Wignalls for allowing us to paint there.


Roadside Gum – plein air painting video

Following a long weekend of interesting weather, in which we managed record spring rainfall – and flooding throughout the region – I went out painting on a beautiful spring afternoon, last Thursday.

I had been out in the morning with the plein air artists from Albany Art Group and wasn’t planning to paint in the afternoon. However, I was driving past a semi-rural spot that’s always caught my eye and I decided to have another look.

Plein air oil painting of roadside tree by Andy DolphinRoadside Gum
25x30cm oil on board.
© Andy Dolphin

Next thing I knew, I was setting up my easel. I also set up the video camera so you can follow along with me on Youtube. The final photo looks a little dark on the video, at least on one of my monitors. The image above hopefully looks okay on your monitor.

Something about this tree intrigues me and I think I’m going to go back and paint it again, maybe when the green has gone from the grass. I’m not a fan of electric greens and after the rains we’ve had in recent weeks, the grass is definitely green. I could have toned it down, but I want to see if I can learn to like it how it is. It would definitely make my life easier since it’s pretty green down here around nine months of the year.

Albany plein air group

I recently tagged along with the Albany plein air painters – a group of artists who choose a new location around Albany to paint or sketch every Thursday morning.

Here’s some of my efforts from the last couple of weeks, including this week’s trip to the Hudson’s Circus which was in town for a few days.

I’ve always wanted to draw or paint a Moreton Bay fig tree and the Albany museum visit provided a perfect opportunity.

Albany Museum sketch book tree by Andy Dolphin Albany Museum sketch book Brig Amity by Andy Dolphin

It’s not every day you get a chance to sketch camels or water buffalo from life – in Albany – but when the circus comes to town…

hudsons circus albany thumbnail sketch by Andy Dolphin

The circus painting was a challenge but with some cropping and minor rearranging, I think I can make a new painting from it.

Thanks to Ros Jenke for taking the photos of me at work.