Painting from this lovely spot, we enjoyed the view of Mt. Moroni and the rush of the Virgin River falls in Zion National Park.

Painting outdoors on location can be difficult at times. The focus of a recent workshop was learning how to identify a good subject in nature, and how to adapt to the changing light and shadow. The first day we worked from a wonderful shady green spot in Snow Canyon near St. George Utah, then traveled the second day to Zion National Park where we chose two pastoral spots to test our skills.

Everyone enjoyed a different set-up for painting on location
Showing off the results of our quiet morning’s efforts

The first objective in any outdoor painting effort is to narrow down what you are looking at, to find something manageable in the time you have. Begin with a quick thumbnail value study to isolate the subject matter, and give yourself a roadmap to follow. Since the light changes by the minute, it is necessary to follow your sketch as you begin painting, establishing the shadows quickly, and sticking to your plan even though the scene constantly changes.

It helps to keep your painting small, under 11 x 14. I feel comfortable completing an outdoor painting in about an hour and a half. Anything longer than that, and you may as well be in the studio because you are making up just about everything anyway. I was pleased with our efforts as I feel like we captured the essence of both canyons in watercolor.

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