"Storm Building" | 16" x 8" | Oil on canvas panel | Available at Hillside Fine Art
©2014 by Kim VanDerHoek
This piece was painted in the afternoon during the Sonoma Plein Air Festival. I'd gone out painting early in the morning and there was a passing storm that brought intermittent showers. Luckily not enough rain fell to force me to pack up my easel and head for shelter though. After lunch most of the storm had passed leaving behind lots of dramatic clouds in the sky which I was determined to paint.
Unfortunately, I didn't find an ideal location but I was running out of time to get to work on an afternoon painting and I had to set up in a spot that I didn't find particularly inspiring. When that happens I've learned to use my artistic license and do my best to create a strong painting. The image below was my actual view and as you can see it wasn't very exciting.
I decided turn my 8" x 16" canvas vertical to allow me plenty of room to create big storm clouds in the sky. With the sky as the main subject I kept the land pretty simple, including the distant hills for atmosphere and keeping the eucalyptus tree on the right which gives the painting a sense of scale. I chose to shape the tree a bit differently because I wasn't thrilled with the shape of the real tree and I eliminated the telephone poles because I felt they would steal the focus away from the clouds with their straight lines and hard edges.
Paintings like this that require more thought to put together are both challenging and freeing. Challenging in that I can't rely too heavily on the landscape for information and liberating because I am free to make significant edits without worrying about rendering the scene exactly.
Some might would argue that this isn't true plein air but, I don't agree because I still use the landscape as a source of inspiration. I feel it's part of my job to create the strongest painting I am able to even when the view isn't painting worthy. Besides, if the plein air police stop buy to check on me I'll be sure to flash my artistic license at them.