Friday, May 10, 2013

The Magical Orchard


I hope that everybody is having a wonderful spring. And I hope that my friends and family back in Minnesota are finally enjoying some nice spring weather.

For the past few weeks I have been spending a lot of time at Peters Orchards in York Springs, PA. The area consists of rolling hills and mountains lined with fruit trees. This landscape seems to go on for miles. I did a lot of plein air painting and sketching there in order to capture the apple blossoms and spring colors. Below are some of these sketches with a description.

You will see this is a somewhat new direction for me, but one I'm very excited about. While none of these sketches are for sale at this time, I plan to turn this material into finished paintings. If you have a chance, please respond and let me know what you think, and which paintings you like.

Don't forget to come watch me and other artists paint outdoors at Plein Air Camp Hill in Camp Hill, PA next week.

Spring Farm, oil on linen.

This is the painting that essentially started this series. While not in the orchard, it is very close. I wanted to capture the colors of the morning light on this farm. The owner came by to see what I was doing.

Spring Afternoon Woodland, oil on linen, 12"x9"
OK, so this one isn't exactly in the orchard either, but once again it was very close, and one of the paintings I did during this time. I loved the lighting and capturing that was my primary objective. I had to raise the values in this painting to give the effect of light filling the scene.

Moon and Blossoms, oil on linen, 12"x9"
This finally is in the orchard. I knew the moon was going to rise full on this particular evening, so earlier in the day I found this spot facing east and planned by idea via pencil sketches and photos. About an hour or more before sunset, I set up and premixed approximate colors by guessing based on experience. This helped me work faster when the light was where I wanted it. There were no blossoms and hardly any leaves yet, so a week later I returned to the orchards at the same time in the evening and added blossoms and made slight value adjustments. I plan to turn this into a final painting with rows of trees leading into the moon.
Blossoms and Mist, oil on linen, 9"x12"
I returned to the orchards on a rainy and misty day. I loved how the unique shapes of the trees stood out when the background was covered with mist. It drizzled and rained while I painted, but that is what umbrellas are for.
Orchard Rains, oil on panel, 6"x8"
On the same day, toward evening, I did this little oil sketch to capture the effect of the mist on the distant mountains. When I was finished, I walked through the orchard smelling the scent of ripe apples on the ground from the previous season.
Small Apple Trees, oil on linen, 9"x12"
Back in the orchards on a sunny afternoon, I was captivated by the greens which were in such beautiful harmony with the blue sky; the blossoms added a nice touch. This painting was a study in greens on a sunny day. I also wanted to give the feeling of looking uphill. Some of the orchard workers came by and gave me a thumbs up while I painted.
Late Afternoon Blossoms, oil on linen, 9"x12"
Late in the afternoon I walked into a grove of older apple trees and was captivated by the afternoon light on the very pale trunks and pinkish blossoms. I had to paint very fast as this scene had a lot going on in it and the light was rapidly changing.
Blossoms at Noon, oil on linen, 9"x12"
I will always remember the day I painted this. I climbed up a hill and walked into a place that seemed almost magical; a grove of old apple trees planted in perfect rows with sunlight dappling through the overhanging branches. Through the end rows you could see the distant purple mountains and blue sky. The color combinations were incredible! I sat down under an apple tree and painted as the bees buzzed around the blossoms. Of all the plein air paintings I have done over the years, this is one of my favorites.
Spring Shadows, oil on linen, 12"x9"
This painting is from the same session as above. I could not stop looking at this tree. I had to paint it. Once again the light was incredible, you cannot capture colors like this with a camera. I can't wait to turn these into finished paintings.
Apple Tree Study, pencil on paper
John F. Carlson said in order to paint trees well you need to draw many trees. This is an example of my taking his advice to heart. Sketching helps you understand what you are painting. It helps you connect with your subject matter in a way photographs cannot.
Near the Orchard, oil on linen, 9"x12"
This is the most recent painting from the orchard area, and my most recent plein air. As you know, I love painting barns and this was no exception. While not in the orchard, it was close, and beautiful.
I hope you enjoyed these plein air field studies. I will be turning these into finished paintings of different sizes and variations. If you would like to see one of these scenes on your wall, contact me at See more of my work at
Be sure to come see me painting next week at Plein Air Camp Hill!


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