Cherry Blossom Joy!

I try to get out and paint plein-aire from the Yoshino cherries during their brief and glorious blooming. It’s always unpredictable! This year it seemed imminent, then a cold front delayed their progress, then BAM! an explosion of flowers.

Ducks check out the Photographer

When I first came to Washington, I expected something gaudier. I was amazed by the subtle beauty of these earliest blooming trees. They are a ruddy color before their buds open, then a soft pink when they’re newly opened. Finally they create a soft glow of white with but a memory of pink, as if a cloud were caught in the dark and twisted branches of the old trees.

Morning at Capitol Plaza
Morning at Capitol Plaza

Saturday I spent the day with easel and paints under the pale clouds, enjoying the color and all the other folks who came there to do the same. Lily got lots of petting and I got one small and one large canvas started. It was a perfect day.

If you’d like to join me, leave a comment. I plan on heading down again on Saturday April 2 from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm. Visit me on Facebook for daily updates and spontaneous painting trips!

River Painting: Deep Summer Afternoon

I’m in the last throes of completing a series of river pictures that have been ‘almost done’ for weeks now. I nudge each of them forward every time I get out the palette, and yet they seem to stay stubbornly in the ‘not quite yet’ camp. ALMOST!!

Last Sunday I completed this one: (click for larger view)

Deep Summer Afternoon, ©2015
20″ x 16″ Oil on board; $500 unframed

This was one of those summer days when you can feel the thunderstorm wanting to happen. Living on Piscataway Bay gives me the most wonderful relationship with the sky. I am so much more in tune with the movement of weather and celestial bodies than I was living in the big woods.

Moyaone Market this Saturday, October 3rd.

Come on down for new paintings and new things happening at Clearwell Studios

More Summer Painting

I’ve been busy, too busy outside slurping up all the delicious low-humidity summertime that August has brought to Southern Maryland to post work I’ve been doing, so here are a few things I’ve been working on.

click images for larger view

 SummerSolstice3  paintingPisc
 Solstice Sunrise, oil on canvas, 14 x 11″  6am, June 21, 2105 ©Patrise

Art in the Open Air Studio

Painters have been busy in the beautiful open-air studio here in the Swamp Forest, my pet name for Piscataway NP’s hidden Moyaone neighborhood, just south of DC. The mild summer temperatures have made outdoor art a pleasure, and my students and I have been taking advantage of this.

New Mexico ©2013 Neil W. oil on canvas

Meet Neil, Accomplished Oil Painter

At the ripe old age of 15, Neil is quite handy with a brush. He and I have worked together for about 2 years now, and I’ve had the joy of watching him gain mastery over this ancient technique.

Neil loves the landscape; he’s a hiker and a camper, active in Boy Scouting and soccer, so for him, plein-aire painting is just another outdoor activity – one he really enjoys.

Bumpy Oak Road, ©2013 Neil W.
Bumpy Oak Road, ©2013 Neil W., oil on panel

We’ve worked on-site and in the studio, in fast-drying oils on paper, canvas and panel in a variety of sizes. Neil has a great sense of composition —the fundamental arrangement of shapes within a painting — a tough skill to lear, or teach. He’s learned a great deal about the nature and science of color, pigments, and how to mix colors that create the illusion of space and shape.

Neil will be exhibiting in his first show, the Charles County (Maryland) Arts Alliance Fall Art Show, a multi-media public exhibit, to be held at the Waldorf West Library, 10405 O’Donnell Place, Waldorf, MD, from October 2 to December 30, 2014. 

A “Meet the Artists” Public Reception will be held on Saturday, October 4, from 2:00 to 4:00 pm, at the  Gallery to honor all the artists participating in the fall show.

For more information on the Waldorf West Library Gallery or the Charles County Arts Alliance, call the CCAA office at 301-392-5900, or email

For more information about art lessons contact me with a comment here or email

The Winter Painter

NOTE: not painted with the colors described below. Leave a comment if you’d like to know what I used in this one.

There are those hardy souls who take their paintbox out into the snowy landscape; I’ve been one of them. The magic of a winter landscape is alluring, and for some of us painting on site is the best way to capture that particular beauty. To the right you’ll see one quick canvas I did by the frozen Potomac a few years ago.

It’s painted fast, with a limited palette; racing against not only my stiffening fingers but the fleeting afternoon light. I haven’t been as adventuresome this year, but below I’ve shared one of my favorite exercises, one you can do indoors or out for a quick and easy winter landscape effect.

Take just three colors: Ultramarine blue, Burnt Umber and white and squeeze them out on your palette. At least twice as much white as the other two. Take some time to mix some colors:

  • each dark color with a dab of white to bring out its hue
  • a bright light tint of umber and blue
  • 50/50 blue and umber, cut with a dab of white
  • keep going, making warm and cool greys, a range of blue tints, a range of umber tints.


This still looks kind of monochromatic on the palette, but when you begin to approach your subject, you’ll be surprised at how rich a picture this will make.

Below are two tiny landscapes painted using this technique. Think of the sunlight warming the trunks of winter trees, and the ice crystals in the sky and snow reflecting cold light. Let the palest umber be your sunlight, and let your snow shadows be quite blue. slather on the white paint to feel the heavy snow, dry brush your bare branches with warmth. Here’s what my student and I came up with:


It’s a great lesson in the essentials of landscape rendering: warm and cool, light and dark, thin and fat are the tools you are wielding. If nothing else, look what a wonderful rich black you can make with Ultra Blue & Burnt Umber. Not to mention the interesting range of greys and grays. (Is there a difference? lol, to me the ‘e’ is warm and the ‘a’ is cool. go figure.)

Cruising the web I found other subjects and mediums using just these two essential pigments. Check these out, and try it yourself!

painting on linen by Larine Chung watercolor by Van Stein acrylic portrait underpainting by John Walker

Goldfinch and sunflower

Here’s a painting recently completed for my neighbors, to celebrate their 1st Anniversary.

The painting was purchased and a fundraising auction earlier this year, and I worked with them to create a bird painting that had special meaning.

Both K and her husband S live in close contact with the natural world. They keep chickens, raise award winning garlic, grow most of their own produce. S teaches organic gardening. They plant these flowers especially for the goldfinches and enjoy watching them from their porch.

Both of them love to watch the goldfinches, especially in late summer when the flowerheads on sunflower, coneflower and rudbekia are ripe for the snacking. The goldfinch is at its brightest plumage, too. Now that the air is cooler, the finches have lost their brilliant colour and are greying down for winter.

It was a pleasure to make a painting like this while watching these birds each day in the garden. I hope K & S enjoy it in their home as much as I did making it for them.