High Road at Dawn | 11" x 14" | Oil on canvas Panel | SOLD
©2013 by Kim VanDerHoek
This was painted during the Sonoma Plein Air Festival in California last week. It was my 3rd painting, I believe. One tricky aspect of painting at these events is deciding where I want to paint each day. Do I want to go somewhere familiar and try to find a new view or composition I haven't done before while the light is good or do I want to take a risk and go to a totally new spot that might not have anything worth painting and potentially loose the best light of the morning?
This painting location was new to me. Another artist had told me about a road just past the center of town in Sonoma where, if I drove far enough, I would find stunning vistas.
The problem with painting alongside most roads in Sonoma is that there is hardly any room to park your car let alone set up an easel. In fact, you take your life into your hands on some of the busier roads there.
I drove far into the hills and found this spot with a wide area to park my car and another spot wide enough to accommodate my easel. What you don't see in the photo above is the hairpin turn which allowed me to get this straight on view down the road. And the light, did I mention the light? WOW! What light! Getting up before dawn to find this spot was totally worth it.
As you can see when comparing the photo of the actual scene to the painting I created, I did a fair amount of editing. I took out the red roofed building in the mid-ground because it was too distracting. I also took out the telephone pole, fence and some bushes. The colors in the foreground were much darker than what you see in the photo too. The photo was also taken when I first got there and before I set up my easel, which is why there is more light on the valley floor in my painting.
The hardest part was painting in the background first instead of starting with my darkest dark. I had to work on the background first because the light was changing so quickly that I knew I only had minutes to get the key colors and values down.
From there I worked on the mid-ground and then the foreground. It was a race because at that point the light was really moving and beginning to affect those areas of the view as well. I'm finding that my visual memory is getting a lot better and I can remember what an area of the view looked like before it changed or I can figure out what a value (light or dark) needs to be based on the overall lighting scheme of the painting.
At the end it felt like I held onto my paintbrush and the painting just happened. Looking back on it however, I realize all the quick but careful decisions I had to make to get there. It was one of my most challenging paintings from the week and probably the one I enjoyed painting the most.