Sunday, October 19, 2014

Plein Air Painting #4 - Gilfillan Farm

On the final day of painting during Plein Air Mt. Lebanon 2014, I left the city behind and headed out to paint at Gilfillan Farm, which was on our list of suggested painting sites. The farm sits right in the middle of suburbia, but is owned and maintained as a working farm by the Upper St. Clair Historical Society.
10" x 8", ink & watercolor on 140 lb. Strathmore paper

It was a beautiful October morning when I packed my painting supplies and took off on the walking trail that surrounds the farm. The path meandered through forests and fields, and I finally settled myself in a sunlit spot on a hillside where I had a perfect view of the big red barn and outbuildings, with the 19th century farmhouse peeking out from behind.

I did a quick five-minute pencil sketch to rough in where I wanted the image and the lettering, lightly penciling in the buildings and larger masses of trees. Then I went in with a Pigma Micron pen to finalize the details.

I painted the sky first, then moved to the foreground and applied the first wet-in-wet washes to the fields and grassy areas. The buildings came next and were painted wet-on-dry. The barn siding was indicated with both painted lines and lifted lines (where I used a damp brush to lightly brush over the dried watercolor, then blotted to lift the paint.)

Next, I painted the larger trees in the mid-ground. After they dried, I went in around the light-colored leaves and branches with darker greens, blues and purples to provide contrast.

Then I painted the background trees with slightly muted colors, wet-in-wet.

The last step for the farm sketch was to add some interest to the foreground with a combination of washes, painted lines, and spattering.

Back home, I painted the title with a combination of alizarin crimson and cadmium yellow medium, allowing the colors to merge and blend.

The hours I spent sitting in that field at Gilfillan Farm were the most relaxing of my long and frenzied week of plein air painting. Guess I'm just a country girl at heart!


  1. I Loved all of your plein air paintings, but this is the one for me, You make it all sound so simple, ( if only)
    Thank you Leslie for sharing how the finished result was achieved.

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed reading about how I painted this. I hope it helps you with your own painting.

  2. Great work Leslie! Plein Air certainly has it's challenges, but it's a lot of fun too! Your work is so inspiring! Did you work on blocks or individual papers? I noticed you used several different brands over the week of painting.

    Thank you for sharing! :)

    1. I used cut sheets, blocks, and sketchbooks. I started out with cut sheets of Arches for the first two paintings, because I felt like I should use "good" watercolor paper for this event. But I have never really liked Arches paper, and this time was no exception. I've never understood why it's so popular. I switched to Canson blocks and Strathmore watercolor paper for the rest of the paintings (except for one that I did last summer in my 9x12 Stillman and Birn Zeta sketchbook. The Canson and Strathmore are both closer to what I'm used to painting on in my sketchbooks, so I was much more comfortable working on them than the Arches. (And they were what I had in my stash!)

    2. I too don't understand why so many artists love Arches, I'm also a fan of Strathmore 500 or Fabriano Artistico paper.

  3. You make it sound so simple! I love the lettering detail added

  4. What a charming scene… and so well done… thanks for sharing your process.


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