With the festive season and ten days of scorching-hot weather out of the way, I got back to painting yesterday.

I had driven down a short gravel road and then turned around to head back out. The road turned into a track near the end and as I was leaving I kept an eye on my rear-vision mirror which is one way of isolating an area, much like using a viewfinder. I decided there was a potential painting here and with safe and easy parking on the side of the road, I saw no reason to look any further for subject matter.

I began with a thumbnail…

plein air landscape thumbnail by andy dolphin

I was interested in the large dark silhouette of the big tree and the shadow it cast across the road. I also liked the way the sunlit road turned behind the shrubbery in the distance. It feels like it’s going somewhere. The key to the painting, however, was going to be the sunlit trunk of the main tree contrasted against the dark foliage behind it. You can see that I also noted a strong counterchange with the top portion of the tree trunk contrasted against the bright sky. The thumbnail was to prove useful because most of the trunk went into shadow for quite a while as the painting progressed and I might have played down those contrasts without this visual reminder.

Here’s the must-have location shot.

plein air landscape oil painting by andy dolphin

This painting was done in mid-late afternoon, around 4-5pm (sunset is about 7:30pm), but it’s interesting to consider that at any other time of day, without the cast shadows, this location might appear completely unremarkable.

When I’d finished, I met and had coffee with a couple of wonderful artists who live nearby. It was a great start to the new year.