plein air set up at Ludington State Park

Painting at the state park

After my first attempt to paint outdoors in the snow I found I liked it so much that I had to do it again. This time I went to Ludington State Park, which is just about five minutes away from my house. So great to live this close!

I set up along the Sable River for both pieces. I was captivated by a pine tree on the bank with its limbs covered with fresh snow and the sun glinting on the water. Memo to me: if you park yourself under snow covered branches and there’s the least bit of wind you will end up with snow in your pastel box. I need to do some research about umbrellas that attach to a tripod. But no harm done.

The second piece was farther up the river towards the dam along the boardwalk on the south side. I loved the way the sun lit up the bank and the way the pines in the distance cast shadows all around.

It was pretty cold out there at 10 am, and I was also in a lot of shade, so there were no warming rays hitting my coat. Fortunately, I had some of those instant heat packs to put in my mittens.

Another memo: Get some good, fitted fingerless gloves before doing this again. The mittens I have are wool, but while the fingers are open, the thumb is covered. This makes for awkward handling of pastels, especially the smaller ones. Yet another memo: replace all those teeny pieces with half sticks. It’s just too hard to hang onto small pieces when your hands are cold.

I had a great time walking around in the park. I saw four people and one dog out on the trail along the river and it was a beautiful day to be outside, sun shining and mild temperatures in the 30s.

Here is the first of the pieces I did:

Marie Marfia, Tree on the Bank, soft pastel on sanded paper, 10 in x 8 in.
Tree on the Bank, soft pastel on sanded paper, 10 in x 8 in.
A picture of my set up for the first piece.

I really love being outdoors to paint. I like feeling the sun on my face, I like the paintings I make from life better than those I recreate from photos. They’re fresher, looser and more reflective of the overall experience. So I will definitely be doing more of them!


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