Precious Time - Perspectives No. 397
Two times a year in the Midwest, we are treated to a plein air painting opportunity which should not be missed. It is happening right now, earlier than usual. Winter is on its way out and the air is warming, but before spring can burst forth with new green finery, the colors and architecture of winter remain for just a little while longer. Cool, even cold nights are quickly warmed by bright early morning sun. That change of air often brings the gift of lovely scrims of light fog. These hazy, misty mornings turn our world into an ethereal dreamscape suitable for framing. These are not heavy blankets of fog, but light veils created by the temperature difference between cold ground and warming air. Distant trees and landscapes are turned into powdery blue and blue-violet backdrops for anything we might wish to paint. I especially look for hillside swathes of little bluestem grasses which radiate their bright orange winter colors against the cool complementary background. Nature assists the painter in other ways as well. Details are lost quickly with distance at these moments helping to create beautifully focused subjects up close. There is just enough color now in the tough native fescues that we can have a carpet of bright green mixing with the ochres, umbers, siennas and deep magentas of the other native plants. The arching stems of wild roses and blackberry delight the eye with their deep reds and violets against those other colors. Framed against the vertical dark blues and light violets of background trees, the grasses, shrubs and wild growth of our native landscape together create an impressionist painter’s dream. There are no bugs buzzing around yet, only the sweet spring calls of our winter birds fill the air. It is a time to be savored and captured in paint. I know that it can be a struggle to throw off blankets and leave warm winter beds at first light, but it is well worth it. We are the lucky ones who receive these wonderful gifts of morning light, because there is never any regretting lost sleep when the piper is at the gates of dawn.
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