Daddy's Christmas Angel

Friday, May 9, 2014

Painting En Plein Air - A First Excursion with a French Easel

Rosewell Plantation ©Mary Montague Sikes
Last Saturday, for Historic Garden Week in Virginia, I painted en plein air at the Rosewell Plantation ruins in Gloucester. Construction on the magnificent brick house began in 1725. Eventually, it was described as the largest and finest colonial home in America. Thomas Jefferson did some of his first writing at Rosewell. Sadly, the old mansion burned in 1916. The remains are iconic and a little bit eerie.

For many years, I have toyed with the idea of purchasing a French Easel to set up for outdoor painting. Although I looked at art stores and online, I never found one that appeared sturdy and attractive for a price I was willing to pay. After all, with all the insects we have in Tidewater Virginia, I'm not sure how often I will use it. Last week (Sunday of the week I was scheduled to paint on Saturday), I looked once again at the Cheap Joe's American Journey French easel and decided it was the one for me. With the specials and other items I ordered, I was able to get free shipping which always attracts me. Since it didn't ship until Thursday, I was worried I wouldn't get it in time for Saturday. However, we seem to have a direct route (with regular shipping) from Boone NC to my home. The two boxes arrived on my doorstep by noon last Friday.
"Painting at Rosewell" ©Olen Sikes

The French easel is even nicer than I expected. I love the convenience of the drawers and compartments. Using Rembrandt soft pastels and a few Senneliers, I completed a pastel painting on the grounds of Rosewell. In my studio, I added a few color highlights to the painting. I still have not tried the Sennelier oil pastels I ordered, but that's a project for a different day.

Now I'm looking forward to another excursion en plein air. At my house, the gnats and mosquitoes are out full force. We were fortunate that insects were not a problem for painting at Rosewell Plantation ruins. Thank you Historic Garden Week and Gloucester Arts on the Main for inviting artists to paint on the grounds of the houses on tour. Thank you, Cheap Joe, for the quick delivery of my beautiful new French easel.

As for Rosewell Plantation, I wonder if someday a restoration will take place. So much history lies hidden among the ruins.
"Rosewell En Plein Air" ©Olen Sikes


Tara Tyler R said...

what a gorgeous setting!
if i ever get to europe again (now that i'm a writer) i will never leave for all the inspiring architecture, land, and history!

Mary Montague Sikes said...

It is beautiful. I wonder why after all these years, no one has restored it. Thanks for visiting, Tara.

Jennifer Chandler said...

What a beautiful place! I love ruins and old buildings. And I'm just now venturing into the realm of painting. What a fun place to paint :)


Stephanie Faris said...

What a beautiful location. I'd love to just camp out there and write for a few hours!

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Thanks for visiting, Jennifer and Stephanie. It can be a quiet and peaceful place for both painting and writing. Some of the visitors that day went into the woods, and, I think, down to the water. I was busy painting and didn't go to check on that.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Those are some cool ruins. Amazing how much stone (from what I can see) was used. Love the easel, as well! Will we get to see the finished product?

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Thanks, Shannon. The Rosewell ruins are both cool and well-kept. I haven't taken a photo of the finished painting yet. Am still looking at it and wondering about adding something more!

D Biswas said...

That's so gorgeous --- looks like a movie set!

Mary Montague Sikes said...

That was an especially pretty day for visiting and painting the ruins, D. Biswas. Thanks for visiting.