Our Plein Air group on June 11, 2021.
Early-morning sunlight streaming through the trees. The rippling of the water, and the call of birds. My primary source of summer bliss is plein air painting. Every single Friday.
I’ve noticed that occasionally people feel a little frustrated with Plein Air painting. It's a very different experience from painting in the studio.
Here are a few pointers that have helped me:
First of all, Go easy on yourself. Toss any thoughts of perfection aside, and immerse yourself in the experience! If your painting turns out well, that’s a bonus!
Second, Mindfulness. The joy is in the journey: being outside, noticing the ground under your feet supporting you, carefully observing the beauty of nature, listening to the soundtrack of bird calls and water flowing, feeling part of creation. This is the best therapy there is!
Third, Simplify. Don’t try and capture everything you see—it can be completely overwhelming. Zoom in on a section or an area, even an interesting plant or two. Save detail until the very end—you might not need it at all! (Sometimes it’s helpful to simplify the materials you bring on location as well!)
Fourth, Values. If you focus first on sorting your lights and your darks, everything usually falls right into place. This also helps to simplify the scene. I don’t always do a value study, but my paintings usually turn out better when I do!
Fifth, Focus. Keep your mind and your eye—and your painting — centered around the one thing that initially drew you to the location. Was it bright-colored flowers in the foreground, a glow of light in the background, an array of interesting shapes? Whatever it is, don’t lose sight of the magic that initially inspired you, and don’t let anything upstage it!
Sixth, Embrace the challenge. Plein air painting really stretches you as an artist. There’s a reason artists have been choosing to paint on location for centuries, from the French Impressionists to the Hudson River School in upstate New York, these artists knew that getting outside and painting from life in nature would improve their painting skills and powers of observation better than any other practice.
Seventh, Instruction. Sometimes a short private lesson on color mixing or value studies or some other key principle can make a big difference when you’re painting on location. Don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a private session if you think this would help you over a hurdle or two.
If you're interest in joining us, reach out to me directly via the contact form, or sign up for the group email under the LEARN tab. Anyone is welcome. You don't have to be mega-talented. And we always have a great time.
"Air of Respect," 11 x 15 original watercolor
Once upon a trail, as a friend and I were descending a rocky slope, we suddenly found ourselves in a face-off with a bighorn sheep.
We stood there in a stunned silence, frozen in our tracks as we became aware of the potential danger. After a few moments that felt like an eternity, it occurred to me that if we stepped off the trail, to the left, maybe the ram would understand that we weren’t aggressors. So we carefully took a few steps to the left side of the trail.
As we did so, the sheep took our cue and politely stepped to the other side of the trail, sending a benign signal of its own. Respectfully we passed each other on opposite sides of the trail and continued our journey.
My friend and I remarked on the danger and the beauty of this experience. How this beautiful animal commanded an air of respect. She later shared with me that spotting a bighorn sheep on the trail is considered a good omen in some cultures.
This is not from the photo we nervously took that day. But it is from my own photo, taken years later, still in awe of this beautiful creature. I'm calling it Air of Respect, which is also a perfect phrase to describe most fathers.
It's not too late to gift Dad the wildlife watercolor he's been wanting for his office or den! 15% off all existing landscape and wildlife paintings, this week only. (Also perfect for our favorite Highland High School grad.)
More ideas for Dad:
A vacation home or ancestral home; a favorite travel destination; underwater sea life
Portrait of a child or grandchild; ancestor portrait; rugged landscapes, western art.
Gift certificates are available to announce commissions.
Note: All existing landscapes and wildlife paintings 15% off for Father's Day.
(Commissions are not discounted.)
Mothers' Day is this weekend, but don't worry, I've got you covered.
You can score the perfect gift at the perfect price right now.
PLUS: Use coupon code MOM to save an additional 10% sitewide.
SEE WHAT'S NEW THIS MONTH
Mini Europe Paintings -- at a very giftable price
Cover her wall with art and not fingerprints! Just added this week, mini original Europe paintings (4.5 x 6.5, in 8 x 10 mat). Subjects from England, France, and Italy. On sale 15% off this week! Choose your favorite, or create a grouping. Hurry before they’re gone! These are selling fast!
Cookbooks in stock and on sale!
Inspire her with brilliant images and delicious recipes. This bestseller is back on sale with a two-for-$35 Mother's Day Special. Best price this year! Save $25 off list when you buy two. (Just need one? They're on sale this week too.)
"Wonderful cookbook with beautiful art! I so loved and can’t wait to try the recipes!"
Abstract originals from the cookbook: Add a pop of contemporary color!
Flowers that won't shrink, stretch or fade.
"Peonies", original watercolor, 8x8, $225.
Give her flowers that always stay fresh, never wilt, don't need to be watered, and last forever. All 10% off through Sunday.
Tulip Trio, 8x8 Dancing Daisies, 6x6 A Rose By Any Other Name, 15x15 Blossoms,8x8
Sanctuary of Faith prints:
Only a few left in stock! 8 x 10 or 4 x 5, with or without type; with or without mat.
Thank her for the environment she creates and the spirit she brings to your home.
I also have gift certificates in virtually any amount, and you can gift her an e-course, a private lesson, an amount toward a painting, commission a portrait, anything you like! You can also send as an e-certificate.
Remember: Use code MOM to save 10% sitewide!
Exactly ten years ago we we went to the Carl Bloch exhibit at the BYU Museum of art, and had a transcendent experience seeing these well-known depictions of the Savior as the original, larger-than-life paintings. They were breathtaking.
Around the same time, I was offered an opportunity to stay with my family at a friend's vacation home near St. George in exchange for my painting a "house portrait" of the home when we returned. We were excited about the opportunity to spend Spring Break together as a family in the desert, to hike and explore. But we were unprepared for how stunningly beautiful the homes and the development was, all designed to complement rather than detract from the desert setting.
The combination of having been so deeply moved by the Bloch paintings, followed immediately by these four or five days in the desert made me a whole new kind of alive. All of my senses were heightened, and for days on end I experienced what I now call "mindfulness on steroids," an intense but active meditative state where you experience your surroundings as never before. In this case, what I saw literally everywhere I turned in the desert was a metaphor for the Savior and his atonement. Although we were vacationing as a family, I spent that year's Holy Week in a state of relative holiness, contemplating moment by moment aspects of the savior's life, sacrifice, death, and rebirth.
I since planned a series of paintings called Desert Metaphors, in an attempt to share my experience with others. For people who are not religious, they are simply a collection of rare glimpses of the Utah desert at springtime. But for believers, there are layers of additional and deeper meaning to be found in every image.
Ten years later this series still is not complete, but I am ready to present some of these pieces. Yesterday was Palm Sunday, a day Christians celebrate Jesus's triumphant return to Jerusalem, where his followers honored him by waving palm leaves, and shouting Hosanna, which means "Save us now." They laid palm branches, along with articles of clothing, by some accounts, to line his pathway to the holy city...and ancient attempt to roll out the red carpet, if you will.
I absolutely love what President Russell M. Nelson said about palm branches and Palm Sunday, in a video yesterday. He asks the world to “make this coming week truly holy by remembering — not just the palms that were waved to honor the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem — but by remembering the palms of His hands.” He then quotes one of my favorite scriptures, Isaiah 49:16: “Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands” — a promise, President Nelson says, that “[Christ] will never forget you.”
And so for today's image, in commemoration of Palm Sunday, I present the first in this year's Desert Metaphors series: "His Palms." This is done in a technique I learned from a Florida artist, Jean Grastorf, based on her book, "Pouring Light." The goal is to capture the illusion of light. Perfect for a goal, #StartingToday, to see and choose light in our lives. #Iwillseethelight
"His Palms" 15 x 11 original watercolor.
Gifts From the Sea, a new online course at Jana's Departures Watercolor School
Places where I've walked along the sand, collecting seashells: The white-sand beaches off the coast of Sarasota, Florida; up and down the California Coastline; small beach towns dotting the central coast; all the towns and beaches circling Monterey Bay; the rocky coast of the Oregon shoreline; the four main islands of Hawaii.
I love the meditative act of beach combing. There is a mindfulness, movement and rhythm, a letting-go of worries and stress, and a feeling of freedom, and oneness with the ocean and the shore. No matter where your favorite or closest beach is, there is something soothing and rewarding about walking the edge of the water and waiting to see what the tide brings in and leaves behind. Shells are Mother Nature's gift to the patient beachcomber. Treasures.
This series of six beautiful projects offers a similar reward to the patient artist: Treasures. You too can enter the relaxed, meditative zone as you work with water, pigment and light to create your own hand-painted shell collection! This course contains instruction on creating textures, understanding color theory (and why certain combinations work better than others) and tried and true techniques.
Watch, then follow along as I paint a variety of seashells from my own collection, including a starfish, a clamshell, a whelk, and a scallop. The instructions are easy, narrated every step of the way, including the colors I'm using with every dip of the brush.
Techniques: Learn new techniques such as the color-flow technique for soft, watery edge; negative painting, for creating depth and bringing out lighter areas; double and triple-loading your brush for fresh combinations without stirring, and combining colors wet-on-wet for soft, natural blends.
Textures: Learn how to use salt, spattering, scraping, dotted lines and more to achieve a variety of textures. The course includes a quiz at the end of every section, leading you through a self-evaluation of your work so you can grow and improve. (Don't worry -- it's not graded!)
The course is yours to keep. You can rewatch the videos and practice again and again. I also created a generous dot card with 10 must-have colors for painting natural, lifelike shells. Once you're finished you can frame them as a set to hang on your wall, or give as gifts. Make summer last just a little while longer!
The best news of all, this course -- and all my e-courses -- are 25% off for the month of September. For less than the cost of a single private lesson, you can create five beautiful paintings! Simply use the coupon code SCHOOL here at janaparkin.com, or on my sister site at teachable.com. (Discount appears at checkout.) The dot card is sold separately, right here. Materials associated with courses are also 15% off this month. Use coupon code SCHOOLSUPPLIES.
Chateau Marouatte, original watercolor with pen and ink, $250.00 unframed
It wasn’t a dark and stormy night, but it was a wintry afternoon. I was invited to teach a plein air watercolor workshop at a castle in France, called Chateau Marouatte. It’s situated on 270 acres of woodlands, within the Dordogne region. And has its own chef.
I was quickly able to fill not just one, but two weeks of workshops with participants ranging from college students to senior citizens, with varying degrees of experience. This was guaranteed to be amazing!
Today marks the first day I would have been teaching at the castle in France. But, thanks to a global pandemic I am mostly working from home these days, like most of you. France is happening next year. But for now...a part of me is still yearning to paint castles. So this week and next, during Plein Air Fridays, I am venturing out to local places that look and feel like castles. Watch for that email.
I'm also offering a 25% discount on any and all paintings I already have of castles, including Chillon in Switzerland, and Dover and Eynsford in England. And the one of Chateau Marouatte pictured above. I'm also including any of my France paintings on this discount. For the first time ever, that also includes commissions -- Have a favorite castle or a favorite spot in France you'd love to see captured in watercolor? I'm your gal. Watch for an email for this as well.
Don't worry -- We’re still going to stay and paint at the Castle in France…in late June and early July of 2021. You can sign up here -- I have two spaces left. And I'm remaining flexible, knowing the world is an unpredictable place...with lots of happy endings.
Jana plein air painting at Thanksgiving point during the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.
Our first plein air session of the summer starts Friday, June 5th!
Here are some questions that often come up that can (hopefully)
put your mind at ease:
Is it really only $25? Yes, no matter how many people end up coming it is always just $25....unless you don't reserve a spot in advance. The price goes up to $30 the day of the event (starting at 12:00 a.m.) I'll send out a "last call" reminder on Thursdays.
Do I have to commit to all the sessions? No, that's the beauty of Plein Air Fridays. Flexibility reigns supreme. Come as many times as you like, of course, but there is no obligation to attend other sessions, and spots are reserved week by week.
What materials do I need? For starters, just bring whatever you have. If you don't have any materials, I am happy to help you get set up with some brushes and paper and a beginner's palette, or even just a fan of colors and a water brush. The most important thing is to come and participate.
Do I need an easel? Not at all. I prefer to paint standing up for these sessions. (It also helps the rest of you see what I'm doing.) But it is perfectly acceptable to sit on the ground, or on a portable chair and hold your paper in your lap. I often do it myself.
Is there a place to sit? I often look for locations with comfortable seating, and sometimes even tables. But that's not always possible. I will let you know what kind of seating is available at each location.
What about restrooms? I also look for locations with a good water source and nearby restrooms, but again that's not always possible. I'll let you know if you need to bring extra water, or if the restroom is a long way from where we're painting.
What time does it start? Plan on 9 a.m. in general. Our start time is often based on the weather. Traffic can impact us as well. We usually begin sometime between 8 and 10 a.m. My goal is for us to be as comfortable as possible for as long as possible. Sometimes in shady areas near water we can start a little later. On extra hot days it helps to start a little earlier. And of course we want to avoid rain. I'll keep a close eye on the weather and let you know the night before exactly what time we'll be starting.
How do I get there and where do I park? I will send out detailed driving and parking instructions and any other information you might need the night before.
How long does it last? Plan on 1.5 to 2 hours. I usually finish my demo in that amount of time. But you are welcome to leave earlier if you need to, or stay a little later to finish up.
What if I haven't taken lessons before? Not a problem. It does help if you've painted a little before, but no worries if you haven't. I narrate everything I'm doing while I'm painting, to help you understand the process. And you will learn a lot just by watching me paint. But it's the most fun when you dive in and try it yourself! One friend has even brought her 11-year-old son, who has done great.
Will I be embarrassed if I'm not good at it? Only you can control your own emotions, but it is not a competition and there is no pressure to succeed. One of the first pieces of advice I give everyone when we're getting started is to toss perfectionism aside. Take the pressure off yourself and focus on the experience: The beauty of what we're painting, the gentle breeze, the smell of nature in the air, and the joy of painting outdoors. If your painting turns out great, that's the cherry on top! But the painting is always secondary to the experience of creating in the great outdoors.
—I also have had some participants arrange a private lesson with me to get some pointers on how to improve their painting as a follow-up before the next session. That extra input and practice can be invaluable. (This can also be arranged via FaceTime or zoom.)
Can I bring a friend? Of course! Anyone is welcome to join our little group. Just be sure to check with me so we don't go over our max of ten people.
Will there be lunch afterward? I'm working on finding a way to cater lunches this summer, but haven't quite nailed down the details yet. No lunch this week. But possibly in the future if there is enough interest. I'l keep you posted.
I hope you'll be joining us soon!
My students often ask me, "How do you see all those colors?" Then they usually follow up with, "All I see is a _______ (fill in the blank: white flower, grey wall, brown mountain, blue sky, green tree, etc.) The truth is the world is made up of mixtures of color.
Students especially seem to struggle with whites. What colors do you use to paint something white? The answer is both simple and complex. Whites have all three of the primary colors in their shadow areas. Look at the peonies above. Can you see areas that are more yellow, more red (pink), and more blue?
What if I do this?
This is the same photo, just with the contrast and saturation levels raised. Now you can see all that color, right? It was there all the time. You just have to look for it. Scroll back up to the first photo and see if you can see the reds, yellows, and blues now.
Artists train their eyes to see color in places other people miss. I don't need to saturate my photos to see the color--it's almost like my eyes have a built-in saturation filter.
Below is my finished painting. You can see that what I paint is somewhere in between the regular image and the saturated one. Nature is masterful at blending and creating complex colors. It's an artist's job to bring out and emulate that complexity so others don't miss it.
I have always loved postcards. Antique ones in plastic sleeves in gift shops. Fancy reproductions of favorite paintings in museums. Glossy photos in tourist traps. I love them all.
But I especially love painting my own postcards. Often when I go out of town I'll paint a postcard to send to a friend, or to my dad, someone I know will appreciate the effort and the artwork. I have painted postcards on a street corner in Tijuana, with a circle of kids looking over my shoulder, in San Francisco and Monterey Bay with tourists passing by and the wind whipping. In Jackson Hole, Wyoming when I was there for a watercolor workshop. In Hawaii last fall. At Bear Lake with friends. In faraway England, when I was studying at Cambridge, and more recently when my husband and I were overseeing a group of study abroad students ourselves.
A few weeks ago (BC = Before the Corona Virus) I was at my dad's house in his study, and he pulled something out of a frame on his desk so I could see what it was -- a postcard I had sent him from London four years ago. I was so touched that he had not only kept it, but framed it. Has kept it on his desk all these years. That is the magic of a painted postcard!
Here's why I love painting postcards:
That's one reason I created this Creative Connections Watercolor Workshop/Kit Creative Connections greeting card workshop/kit. To give you the joy of creation, without all the fear of getting started.
St. Paul's and the north bank of the Thames. 4 x 10, framed in grey wood. $175.00
I recently completed a series of 24 mini landscapes, 21 of which are from our recent travels through England and Europe. (The other 3 are of Bear Lake and Mt. Timpanogos from the Ridge Trail.) This series of 4" x 10" paintings was a major departure from the commission I completed a couple of weeks earlier, which was a whopping 53" x 34". (Look for more on that in a future post.) Together, they comprise #16-35 of my Europe series.
I have loved creating these small panoramas, which capture the very essence of the landscape in their long, narrow format. I was often working on 4-6 at a time, as you can see in these photos:
With each painting I was amazed at how much of the experience a small image—barely more than a sliver—could convey. You have to see it to believe it. There is truly something for everyone: Bright, vivid florals, detailed line work, simple studies of a lavender horizon, the muted tones of the London skyline, rugged stone ruins and fresh herbs, lakes, rivers, bridges, buses, taxis, and figures. All are designed to give the viewer a taste of the landscapes I love, both here and across the ocean.
Art Access, a gallery I've grown very fond of, is exhibiting all 24 paintings in its "Small Treasures" holiday show, opening Thursday evening with a VIP reception. This show allows collectors to purchase and walk away with their small treasures, so I can't guarantee my paintings will be there when the show closes, on December 15. But I can guarantee they'll be there when it opens!
Don't miss this opportunity to see — and snag — one of these little gems...small enough to fit in the tiniest corner of your home or office, with an equally small price tag. (The smallest is a 3 x 3 original, unframed, for just $40!). They also make perfect gifts!
Richmond Dock on the Thames, 4 x 10, unframed, $130.
I am an artist and art instructor working in water media. Just knowing I can watch colors run together makes it worth getting out of bed every morning! Helping students capture the same excitement is equally rewarding.