San Diego has some great places for the plein air painter to park their easel and capture the beauty of nature with brush and paint.
One of the best places in the county is the nature reserve at San Elijo Lagoon, between Solana Beach and Encinitas. The lagoon and tidal estuaries meander East to West from the inlet at the coast. The tidal flow extends inland for almost two miles, flowing under the I5 Freeway before eventually ebbing to a stop in Rancho Santa Fe. I painted at a place along the Rios Avenue Trail, which is on the Southwest side of the Lagoon, on a peaceful, foggy, October morning. I can recommend the many locations at the lagoon as a places one could return to again and again and find something new to paint, each time.
Here are some photos and video I took to share with you. You’ll also see my completed painting at the bottom of this post.
Birds and jumping fish break the stillness now and again…
Here’s a short video that gives a 360 view.
Here is the painting after about an hour and a half of painting, when I decided to take it home. I made a few small touches and corrections back in the studio.
…and here is the finished piece, “Rios Trail at San Elijo”
Four of my San Diego plein air paintings are showing at the Solana Beach Library in Encinitas. The art will be on site June 11th through August 3rd, 2016. There is a reception open to all on Saturday, July 16th at 2:00 to 4:00pm.
All four paintings are plein air works, in 16×20 inch landscape format. Each is identically framed in solid wood with dark, espresso color, red distressed undertones and a gold liner. They look very elegant in these frames! Click on an image in the slideshow below to learn more about that painting and to see larger images.
Plein air painters have many different surfaces to choose from on which to create their art.
There is duck canvas, linen, canvas panels, linen panels, birch board and many other choices for the outdoor artist. I’ve tried many of these and have come to my own conclusion and method that works best for my process. That’s why I like to use gessoed and oil primed hardboard panels for painting plein air. Some of the benefits of using panels instead of canvas is, they’re portable–you can carry many in a panel holder when travelling–they won’t tear or dent, and they never have the issue of sunlight coming through the back like you can get when you use canvas outdoors.
I made a video that shows how I prepare inexpensive hardboard panels with gesso and oil primer. They make a great surface to paint on. You might want to try using the methods I’m goint to share to see if you like painting on them as much as I do. Here’s the video if you’re interested:
The working artist has to wear many hats, one of which is the “Framers Hat.” The following framing tips show how I treat my paintings to ensure they look professionally done and will serve my clients and galleries well.
If you plan to sell paintings yourself through an online presence without the intermediary of a gallery or other representation, to keep costs down you should know some things about framing. If you do work with galleries, they will appreciate that your works arrive ready to hang with a professional look, both front and back.
Some tools that will come in handy are:
A Tape Measure.
Cordless Drill Driver
I use stainless steel hardware that will never rust. You don’t want your reputation tarnished by rusty parts a few years down the road. Usually I paint en plein air on hardboard panels as seen in the photo. Panels are portable, easy to mount and will not tear like a canvas could. It’s also easy to sign, date and add any other info to the back of the painting with a permanent “Sharpie” type marker.
Here’s a closer look at the information I put on my panels…
I like to add:
The Date and Place I Painted the Painting.
A Copyright Symbol and Year.
What I Used to Conserve the Painting.
In this case I used Dammar Varnish, so I’ve written that down in the lower right on the back of the panel. This will help future owners and conservators when it comes time to clean and re-seal the painting. They will know what solvents and cleaners are necessary to do their work and will appreciate that I’ve helped them out with this message.
You can see the screws I use are stainless steel, self tapping #6×3/8″. I prefer using these short screws because some frames have very thin face material and longer screws can actually penetrate through the front and ruin a costly frame. That’s not good! The 3/8 length is strong enough to hold most any painting up to about 18×24 inches. Beyond that, you may want to ensure your frames are more substantial and can take the longer screws without any issues. I don’t think the 3/8″ screws are adequate to hold larger, heavier frames. You can also see the “offset clip” I’ve used to hold the panel tightly in the frame opening. These clips come in different offset depths and it’s good to have an assortment because frames have differing rabbet depths and sometimes you may use a thicker panel or canvas so it’s good to be prepared.
I like the single-eye, D-Ring style, stainless steel hangers. These too are strong enough to hold small to medium-sized paintings but if you frame larger works, it would be good to get the heavy-duty hangers with two screw holes, so you can be assured they will hold the extra weight.
You can see the tips of the self-tapping screws in this photo. No need to pre-drill pilot holes when using these–saves lots of time. Just put the screw on the magnetic tip of your drill driver and place it where you want, then pull the trigger…in it goes!
I think it’s best to use vinyl-coated framers wire for the hanging wire. It protects your fingers (and your clients) as well as makes the installation easier. If you’ve ever had your finger pricked or had a strand of framing wire go under your fingernail, you’ll know why I recommend this 🙂
I use a slip-knot loop to attach the wire to the D-Rings at both ends. Leave about 4 or 5 inches of extra wire at each end in addition to the length needed to span the width from the D-Rings at each side.
Tighten up the slip-knot, then wrap the extra wire around the main length about a 10 or 12 times…
then cinch it down tight and cut off the excess, leaving a nice presentation with no fly-away ends. The D-Rings should be placed as near to the edge of the frame as possible without showing. This ensures that the painting hangs close to the wall.
I also like to add a business card with my web URL on it glued to the back. I use simple white glue for this because it will hold up well and dries clear.
The finished wire should be good and taught without much slack. Here you can see that with the D-Rings about 6 inches from the top of the frame, the wire flexes up when hanging by less than two inches, leaving about 4 inches of room for the hanger to be hidden from the top of the painting. This also makes sure that the top of the frame does not drift away from the wall.
That’s it! It’s not too difficult to Do It Yourself and make sure your art will hang correctly and with a professional appearance. Your clients and galleries will appreciate your art all the much more when it’s framed and ready to hang with professional, quality materials and techniques.
I and two other artists will be doing live demonstrations of plein air painting techniques–free to the public. The demos will take place at the annual San Diego River Foundation “River Days,” celebration this Saturday, May 14th in the Mission Gorge Regional Park at Old Padre Dam. The demos happen 8:00am to 11:00am. Here are some “clickable” photos I took on a showery May morning to urge you to come out and see the beautiful setting of the park and learn a bit about how to create scenic art in the open air.