One of the things that first caught my eye about this local farming property was a collection of old sheds that could just be seen from the road. I walked around part of the property yesterday afternoon and, after taking a lot of photos of all sorts of interesting things, I looked back at the sheds and decided they needed painting.
I rummaged through the collection of primed boards in my car and they were mostly long and thin, suitable for panoramic landscapes, but not really for this subject. The only board I had that came close to a “normal” format was 49cm by 34cm. This is much bigger than I’ve painted plein air before but it would give me an opportunity to further experiment with the loose-tight style that I’m working on.

I knew the shadows in the scene would shift fairly rapidly so I did a quick thumbnail sketch. This helps to cement the image in my mind, simplifies everything down to the most obvious tones and provides a reference for later, when the light has changed.

The principal focus of this painting was to be one bright white shed half-tucked under a large tree. It shone like a beacon against the very dark green shadows that surrounded it but it soon disappeared into shadow as the sun headed west. The thumbnail sketch, and the image in my memory from doing it, saved the day.

I began with a large, semi-random wash of some warm earth colour. I gently wiped over parts of this with a clean cloth to get rid of almost all the white primer. I didn’t want any bright whites competing with the shed.

If I was into abstract painting, I’d probably stop here and call it done.

I developed the wash a little further, giving some attention to where the major dark tones would be.

From here it was just a matter of painstakingly developing the details of the trees and buildings.

Much of the under-painting remained untouched, as was the plan. The sun didn’t hide behind clouds this time, so I wasn’t tempted to start messing with things not directly related to the main subject area.

Narpyn afternoon. 
Plein air sketch. 49x34cm oil on board. 
© Andy Dolphin

It’s a radical departure from my usual style but it’s something I’ve wanted to try for a very long time. I just needed the right subject matter.

You can go to my previous post to see the obligatory plein air location photo.