The bluebells are starting to peak around the Piedmont here and I had to get out and paint them while they last. They usually come and go in about 10 to 15 days. My two favorite spots are at the old stone bridge at Bull Run in The Manassas Battlefield and Riverbend Park on the Potomac in Great Falls. The Bull Run patch is much smaller than Riverbend Park but provides an intimate setting within the trees along the river. The painting time for this 16×20 was two hours.
In this scene everything is backlit, the sun is low in the sky and is moving from left to right as the sun sets. In a scene like this it is important to lock in shadow patterns and stick to them from the beginning as they will change in a matter of minutes.
I establish my horizon line and big anchor points first in the correct tone and color.
My goal is to cover the entire canvas in the first few minutes to get the color and value relationships that will be constantly shifting later as I paint. While I am willing to incorporate some changes that occur later it is important not to deviate too much or the strong sense of light and shadow is ruined.
Once I have the big shapes established, I start adding elements by designing them into the scene not just trying to copy their placement.
I want to use the colors of the bluebells and there leaves and the game trail that is leading away from me to weave back through the painting breaking up the verticals of the trees and the angles of their cast shadows.
I continue to add elements and refine the larger masses of the painting.
At this point the light has changed enough that I focus on the painting looking up occasionally for information from nature to resolve any passages that haven’t been resolved to my satisfaction.
The finished painting, Bull Run Bluebells 16×20 Oil on Linen