Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Observation Day

Notes From my Field Journal

Today I spent the entire day out in natural Florida observing the landscape and trees. I learned some things about the land and trees I didn't know. That is the greatest thing about being a painter. We have so many opportunities to see special places that others don't ever get to see. Florida is not just the land of palm trees and beaches in bright happy colors. There is an ancient dark quality to it that few know. I bounced along in Hutch's truck with Mary Jane through the high Dogweed looking at trees hundreds of years old. This was the land of Mastodons long ago, and explorers still find their teeth occasionally. We saw tall cypress and pines with eagles nests high in the branches, and ancient Live Oaks with long twisted branches reaching low to the ground.We learned from our guide that the Live Oaks are almost always rimming the wet prairie edges and that cypress trees sprout on dry land before they can live in wetlands. I never knew this. Something to add to my tree journal.

After a good BBQ lunch at Pearl Country Store, we headed over to my favorite painting spot, Fair Oaks, which is 160 acres of  prime land in north central Florida. We took about a million reference photos before simply sitting and observing gathering storm clouds and the look of the rain on the canopies of trees, which began to sparkle like they had been glittered. There is no place that has light like Fair Oaks. It is the best place for light.

A lot of location painters don't understand that it is the time spent in the field without the paints that really teaches you about painting. That time of sitting and watching is invaluable. My journal is my best resource in painting trees.


  1. " it is the time spent in the field without the paints that really teaches you about painting"
    That is something every plein air student should print out and staple to their wall! Lovely observations... beautiful sensitive painting... thanks for sharing.

  2. Kelley,
    Thank you so much for the kind comments. Yes, observation time is so much more valuable than the actual painting time for field work. Ideally, there should be time for both.