I looked outside at 6am and the place was glowing, with strong sunlight streaming through the trees. So I got up, had breakfast and coffee and prepared to go painting. By 7am I was in the van but the sun was nowhere to be seen.

I decided to go out anyway in the hope the clouds would break up as the sun rose higher. I headed out to the Porongurups and the cloud cover got heavier until, eventually, it started to rain.

I pressed on regardless and the sun kept teasing me with hints that it might break though anytime soon.

I drove around Porongurup for a while before noticing a setting that looked like it had been designed by a landscape artist. The tree was the “perfect” shape (a lot of gum trees are a bit on the ugly side) and the backdrop, with a cloud draped over one of the Porongurup Range peaks, was magical. The long dry grass in front of the dark silhouette of the tree sealed the deal for me.

Everything was still basically shades of grey but the cool dark tones of the mountains and trees contrasted nicely with the warm straw stubble in the paddocks.

I decided I’d have to paint it – sunlight or no sunlight.

plein air australian landscape painting
 (Almost finished)

The lack of harsh light meant that I was able to take a little more time painting as the colours barely changed the whole time I was there.

The muted colour also meant I could use a limited palette – Ultramarine, Crimson, Yellow Ochre and Australian Red Gold plus white. I could even have got away without the Oz-Red-Gold but I quite like using it in mixes.

I can’t recall the last time I did a landscape without using any cadmium colours – this might be a first!

australian landscape oil painting framed
(After Harvest. 20x24cm oil on board. © Andy Dolphin)
I’m really pleased with this one and I think I might do a larger painting from it.