All posts by Britt Magneson

Wow! That is some color


Blocking in
Blocking in

Those are the words that my daughter, Ashley, stated when I sent her this photo. “Wow, that is some color.”   It is nice to receive comments that can go either way!    This was an early morning paint with just Rikka, my German Shepherd, and me.  Catherine was busy becoming famous as a movie extra in a movie, so she couldn’t paint.:)

This morning was a combination of thinking about a former post in this blog about being bold and laying in color and of “you better get out and paint something”.   What I learned from this morning is that the choice of location matters.  It matters in the sense that I need to find something to paint that conveys something to me.   Hopefully, one day I will be able to convey the feeling that I get from the location onto the canvas.

This cranberry bog caught my eye early one morning as I sped by it in my car.     The morning of this painting I drove to  a couple of familiar sites close to my home, but the memory of this cranberry bog stuck with me and I drove out to it.  It was unfamiliar and I wasn’t sure about the parking, etc.

We (Rikka and I) had a wonderful experience attempting to capture the reds of the bog on a beautiful spring day.

Cranberry Bog off of Route 124
Cranberry Bog off of Route 124



Bumps along the way

What we (I) think is so fascinating in our painting journey and its creative process is the difference between beginning this creative endeavor, plein air oil painting, and other creative things that we have done in the past.  Take for example, knitting. When one  first learns to cast on and make a, oh, I don’t know, a square dish cloth, and the stitches are not even or the lines straight, no one said, “Uh, you really should not be a knitter.”  Or when we were first learning to cook, folks didn’t say, ” Ummm, cooking – really not your thing.”

It is different for some reason when you share a painting. I’m not sure if it is because of the museum type experience where art is to be critiqued  and judged at first glance either ” I like it or I don’t like it”, or if there is little leeway for “critics” to understand learning and improving as one goes on.

This has been my experience as a beginning painter, and one that I wasn’t really prepared for.  I think this is really important to understand if you take up oil painting.   Be prepared or prepare yourself for those words that could possibly temporarily derail  you in your oil painting journey.

We have found several things that work for us  to counteract the unintended or intended criticism of a beginning artist.   The first is laughter.   Really, really important.  Every time we go out,  Catherine and I usually have a good laugh at some aspect of our work:  either the easel falls over,   an aspect of the painting appears to be painted on by a deranged person ( how does that happen??) or  just  laughing at the pure joy of being able to be outside and believe that it is possible to capture some of the beauty around us.

Another technique that works for me is to find a painting buddy or another person who may not want to paint, but could go out and read, or knit! with you.   The camaraderie and collaboration with another is really important to keep the spirit of patience and practice alive.

And finally, always, always find something in your work, even if it is  2 inch square that you like and focus on that .

Fits and Starts

Although the title of this blog, Practice and Patience Plein Air, was thoughtfully chosen because it embodies our journey -this winter, I  haven’t been able to practice as much.

The lesson of practice and patience was reinforced again last Saturday morning at Salt Pond Landing.  Click here for Salt Pond Visitor Center information.

Because I haven’t been able to paint outdoors for a couple of months, I felt very rusty that first morning out and fumbled a bit getting everything set up.  Frustration set in as   as we attempted to capture the scene in front of us.  Thankfully, it was the first really spring day of the season and just having the sun shining on our faces and on the water  was a huge inspiration.  As I wrote in my last post, I wanted to try a palette knife in place of  a brush to practice layering color on the canvas.     Combining this “foreign” technique ( although with my level of experience, all of the techniques could be considered foreign) with being rusty painting outside  was daunting to say the least.

To overcome that feeling of “Oh brother, this is so hard”  we decided when we were both finished to say prop the paintings on the rocks and to each say one thing that we liked about our own paintings and one thing that we liked about each others.  Here are those paintings and a short transcript of what we said.  We then packed up our stuff and hiked back to the car with smiles on our faces.

Catherine’s paintings
Britt’s paintings

I said that I really liked the distance/perspective that Catherine painted in the left one and for the  right one, I liked the building and the water.  For mine, I liked the sky in both.

I love the use of Britt’s bold use of color, and for mine, I liked the wide brush stroke on the lower right of the painting, trying to suggest the curve in the shoreline.  -Catherine

Perspective Lessons in humility

We wanted to paint a challenge.

Trying to keep true to our motto and our recent experience that practice is everything, we decided to go out the very next day to paint a more challenging composition.   Well… challenging it was.

And what this painting demonstrated is how even the ineffective results prove to be such learning and inspiring experiences.   After this day, I had to travel away again and all the time I was on the plane, all I could think of was how I would have tried to change the perspective of this: remembering the horizon line,  flattening out the rows of raspberry bushes, the garden, well actually repainting the whole scene.

What is redeeming though is that even these experiences of challenging scenes and unsatisfying attempts teach so much and reinforce the idea of continuing to practice.

painting at Marion's

Plein Air in the COLD

A fun day!


Of course, you can’t tell from this photo, but it was about 32 degrees this morning.  We wanted to see what it is like painting in the COLD.   We actually were able to last  about 2 hours.  As you can see we really bundle up with layers and then try to have everything all set before we go out – paint on the palette, handwarmers, and foot warmers.

Coldest painting day ever
Set up – can you see the handwarmer package??
Cold and windy
Skaket Beach


Taking a risk – painting in Provincetown

Captain Jack’s Wharf, oil by Britt

The point of this post, for me, is that as we have ventured out into the “art” world, painting outside in public places really opens one up for all sorts of things.  One of those interesting things is when people walk by your set up easel and want to see what you are painting.  As a beginner, it is really sort of intimidating in a way because the silence can be deafening.  Anyhow, this particular day we set up in the West End Lot in Provincetown, looking out over to the wharf and here is the result.  Britt

From this lot we had great scenic views and subjects to paint.  We ended up facing different directions.  I painted facing the open water, and Britt painted Captain Jack’s Wharf.  The clouds on this day were amazing.  Enjoy the gallery!  Catherine

Continue reading Taking a risk – painting in Provincetown

Late April – Mill Pond

As you can tell from these photos of this painting excursion, I have a long way to go with color.

This is a photograph of what I was trying to capture.


Photo of Mill Pond - Late April
Photo of Mill Pond

The colors that i put on the canvas in the photos below are much too vibrant and bold  and as you can see with the initial blocking of color – the undertones were too bright for this day.    Soooo much to learn and to practice.

Trying to follow the rules for blocking in shapes
Mill Pond - Late April
After a couple of hours of painting – so much to learn about color


Just Show Up

IMG_1128 (1)
After spin class – Burn Cycle – Portland, OR

It seems that I older I get, the more important it is to continue to stretch my level of discomfort. To me, sometimes that means just showing up.  I did my first sprint triathlon last year at Nantasket Beach.    As I am writing this a year later, I cannot remember what prompted me to sign up for it, I think perhaps it was my yoga instructor.  Anyhow, the point is that the older I get the more it is about not waiting and just showing up.   I did train for that first one and I continue to swim a mile every other day and we run on the beach for two miles.  BUT, I never really was that person in my youth.  Now as time is of the essence, I just sign up and  show up on the beach every morning, or take a training swim class, or go with my daughter to this REALLY hard spinning class (see photo). This photo symbolizes that philosophy.  My daughter lives in Portland and works out religiously at a spinning studio, BurnCycle.  She is really strong as is her fiance and they are both in great shape.  SOOOO, they always ask me to join their workouts and I do.  It is really hard and I can’t stand and cycle as long as they do, but I feel so good afterwards – and this practice of showing up has served me well so far.


Starting out – plein air on Cape Cod – Britt

Very First Attempt
Skaket Beach on a cold March morning

This is a photo of my very first attempt at oil painting last March.  What I hope that it conveys is the theme of this blog.  To be specific that theme is to have patience in yourself and to  allow your personal journey in this world to be exactly what it is supposed to be.  For a while, and  I really, don’t know why actually, I wanted to put paint on a canvas in a sort of bold ish way.  so without study, classes, or much knowledge at all, I just did it.  For me, the patience is being ok with, or comfortable with the knowledge that just getting out there and doing it, is a good thing.  The practice then is to continue to show up to paint,   or to run,    or to swim, and to hopefully reach another level.

Skaket Beach photo Mar2014
Skaket Beach photo
First Day by Britt
First day plein air painting at Skaket Beach, Orleans, MA 

I did take a picture of the beach that morning and printed the photo back home.  I painted this, the first picture, from that photo.

It might be worth considering if you are a bit nervous of just setting up your easel outside in front of the whole world:)  that you start slowly and have patience with yourself.