Jeremy Sams Art Blog

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Painting Animals in Plein Air

Evening Stroll
8x10 acrylic on masonite en plein air

Oh the elegance and the sophistication of a swan, how prestigious they are! They're like the "cats" of the waterfowl world...always on display and doing their own thing. My daughter always associates them with princesses thanks to her numerous "Swan-Princess" movies. However, as proud as they seem, they do make for good subject matter in a painting. The only problem is, they don't usually remain still.

So, how does one capture animals in a plein air painting? Good question...I'm still figuring this thing out. But, here's what I do:
  1.  Do a small thumbnail sketch on a separate sheet of paper, sketchbook, etc.... This helps tremendously when trying to figure out your composition. It's better to get the design down first before delving into a painting only to realize your composition is horrible and then be forced to fix it, wasting valuable time. this step includes locating your center of interest. Will it be in the bottom right corner? Top left? etc...
  2. Capture the landscape. The sun light is moving slower than the animals, in most cases. So, paint the surrounding landscape first to make sure your values and color is right.
  3.  Add the animals last. You can then place them at whatever focal point you choose and arrange them in the best compatible composition if there's more than one animal.
  4. Be sure you don't alter the setting so much that you lose the scene that inspired you in the first place. Try to keep it as close to that first initial "Ah-hah!" moment that captured you.
Chetola Lake, located in Blowing Rock, NC, was the setting for this plein air painting.
To purchase this painting, click the button below. The price is $150 with $12 shipping and handling. If you don't need it shipped, feel free to email me at

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