Why Getting "Up at Dawn" Was Totally Worth It

"Up At Dawn"
8" x 10" oil on canvas panel.

Here is another painting from my trip to San Luis Obispo. One of the great things about painting outdoors all day, every day during a trip like that, is that you can plan to catch that fast-moving light in early morning or twilight.

This view was just around the corner from where I was staying. I spotted it as soon as I arrived but the light wasn't right. After a couple of days I figured out that dawn would be the best time to try painting this farm.

The trick to painting in early morning is to get up before dawn, set up the easel, block in the big shapes of the painting and wait. When the light finally hit the land I worked very quickly to put down the important color notes that would define the moment. The light only lasts for about 15-20 minutes so the blocking in I did initially was vital. After that I used my memory to fill in the final details.

"Farm in Morning Light"
6" x 8" oil on canvas
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As an example, above is a second painting I did in the same spot just an hour and a half later. You can see the light has changed the landscape quite a bit and the clouds have moved. The hill has a lot more light on it, the clouds have lost their shadow and there is more color on the barn. In just another hour or two the whole view would have been in full sunlight eliminating all the dramatic shadows. The light you see in my painting was the last of the interesting light until evening.

As a landscape painter I am often asked by my students why I paint outside and apart from the usual answer about the light and how there is no substitute for painting from life there is the intangible - the absolute peace of witnessing the sunlight creep over a hillside and light up a mist-filled field, feeling the mist on my face when a breeze stirs and knowing that this particular moment will never be repeated in exactly the same way again. That's what keeps me going out again and again, if you've never experienced it I highly recommend giving it a try.


Beautiful, Kim. It is always a joy to view your gorgeous works.
Very interesting discussion and just beautiful paintings.

Thanks, Kim!!
Ruth Andre said…
You had a great time painting. I like both of these paintings.