Wednesday, August 8, 2012, was a splendidly sunny and breezy afternoon in northern Michigan. The sky was a brilliant blue and filled with puffy, cumulus clouds, but I was disappointed when I drove to the field where I intended to paint my first oil plein air.
Only days earlier, this rolling green field contained hundreds of huge, honey-colored hay bales. I was in awe at the sight, but upon returning I found the bales gone and the field empty. In a nearby meadow, I found four remaining bales and got permission to enter the field and paint. The owner said the bales belonged to a tenant farmer.
An hour after I set up my easel for it inaugural use, the tenant farmer arrived, loaded the bales on a truck and carted them away. When he finished, the farmer climbed down from the tractor cab, walked to my easel and said, “These are the last bales. We gotta get ’em in before the rain.” Then, in classic mid-western fashion, he apologized for taking them away.
Luckily, after sketching the scene, I painted the bales first and by the time he took them, I captured what I wanted. Over the next three hours, I touched up the bales and painted the woods, field and sky absent the subject matter of the work. As I did in my first acrylic exercise, I painted using an impasto style applying the paint very thickly and with much texture. I really like the technique as the thick application renders the depth, movement and feeling I want, but I fear this oil will take a month of Sundays to dry!
So, it is from this farmer’s pronouncement that my first oil painting is titled The Last Bales. I think it’s a perfect fit. In the slideshow below you can see some images of the artist, the plein air site and the painting. Of course, there are no digital images of the hay bales save for those in my painting!