While chatting with a friend online this past week about plein air painting we spontaneously agreed to meet that afternoon at Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm. I’d visited the farm 22 years ago, and again about 8 years ago, so knew it was a great place to photograph, and hoped it’d be a good plein air location too. To say the place was different from the last time I’d been there would be an understatement. It was like arriving at Tulip Disneyland! First thing was the ticket booth to pay an entrance fee, then a giant, almost full parking lot, gift shops, food shops, tents surrounding an extensive kids play area, beer and wine tasting and hundreds of visitors wandering the tulip fields—on a Tuesday!
Once I recovered from my “culture shock” and located my friend, we took off towards the fields, beginning to second guess the plein air painting part of our visit.
It was overcast, usually a favorable condition for shooting intense, colorful floral photographs. Sadly, both my photos and my friend’s were very dull straight out of the camera. Back home, using Adobe Lightroom, I was able to bring the color back somewhat closer to what we’d seen on site.
I thought these tulips looked like peonies…
After an hour or more of photo play, we both decided to do some artwork. I walked way back to the car and loaded up my painting gear and hauled it out into the field and set up while my friend smartly settled on a nearby bench and did some great sketches. Intrigued by the layers of colors in the fields, I decided to try and capture that in my painting.
I started with a quick charcoal pencil sketch on prepared canvas.
Next I applied watercolor as a base layer before pulling out my soft pastels.
The sun came out for the last hour or two I was painting, adding more contrast and intensity to the shadows and flowers.
Here I am painting away, caught in the act by my friend when she borrowed my camera. She left soon after, hoping to make it to her home in Portland before traffic got impossible, but I continued painting for another hour, now that the sun had come out to stay. It also gave me the opportunity to capture Mt. Hood, no longer hidden by clouds.