One Hundred Starts

One of my secret ambitions is to be a painter. A real painter who goes out on location and paints real plein air paintings, catching the light the moment it falls, sprinting to the finish with a flurry of brush strokes. It’s been a thorn in my side that I’ve been so damn bad at it. Something is escaping me, but following the artist’s gathering in New Hampshire, inspired by the plein air masterworks of my good buddies I’ve decided to press onward through the fog and actually try to get better at it. Laugh if you must.

I spent a fair bit of time re-reading Kevin Macpherson’s excellent book, Fill Your Oil Paintings With Light & Color, which is a great step-by-step guide, plus his paintings are wonderful examples. Unfortunately, I don’t paint in oil. Yet. That’s another goal. But his advice is excellent and among other things, he recommends :

Pledge to do one hundred starts-simple, flat shape studies with no detail. They can be figure studies, still lifes or landscapes. Give yourself thirty minutes to cover a canvas with properly related color shapes; this will exercise your speed skills. Strive for more accurate relationships with each one. The more starts you do, the better you’ll become at them. Number your starts to chart your progress.

As an acrylic painter, I am improvising on the technical side, so I’m not following Macpherson to the letter. That’s my personal curse: reinventing the wheel whenever possible. But I really like the Hundred Starts concept. Today I drove down to the Wichita Mountain Refuge near Lawton, Oklahoma, and set up my French easel at Quanah Parker Dam, a fantastically rocky shoreline with prickly pear cactus and junipers and scrub oaks softened by wine-red autumn prairie grasses everywhere. I did one very awful painting (#2 Start) which I will spare you, and then something happened to the light- it got magnificent- and I spent the Happy Hour making another picture, #3 Start. Driving home I played country music full blast- I felt THAT good.


#3 Start: Wichita Mountains Refuge, Quanah Parker Dam, Happy Hour

5 thoughts on “One Hundred Starts

  1. Janet says:

    WOW! This is acrylic?! Seems to me that you could EASILY become a plein air oil artist.

    I just came home from a local wildlife art show & competition (mostly carvings) and, it was very nice but seems to have gotten a bit “sparse” with both exhibitors and visitors! A little disappointing to me.

    Thanks for showing this piece, I really need to see something like this!


  2. zeladoniac says:

    That’s true, Joni, I like the wise proverb, too. The spray mister is used constantly, the canvas here is 10″x10″, and it took, all in all, about 1/2 an hour. I’m using tube acrylic paints squeezed into the compartments of a plastic tackle box with a tightly closing lid . Keep the lid closed and spoon out what you need onto your palette. I’m using an enameled butcher tray. And spray heartily. Good luck!

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