Sunday, August 17, 2014

La Caille, An Oasis in the Woods

Eight artists braved the beauty of La Caille, a restaurant located 
at the base of the Wasatch Mountains in Sandy, Utah (someone 
had to suffer...ha-ha).

Painting on the grounds of La Caille was like stepping onto 
the pages of a story book. It's rolling hills, stoney paths, water 
fountains and beautiful flowers were stunning. I half expected 
to see a princess walk out from one of the cottage-like structures. 
There were screaming peacocks, swans, geese, rabbits, roosters 
and other critters.

It was like being in a fairy tale. Perfect for plein air painting! 

We started out at 9:00 am, found individual places to set up 
and began our workshop.

Today was all about learning to control a palette knife.  
It would have been easy to use a brush, but I decided to 
have the students focus their efforts solely on knife work. 
It was a challenge for them to find the balance between 
not using enough paint and spreading too much paint on 
their canvas.

There were many details in the surroundings (like hanging 
flower baskets, ducks and garden sculpture), and we found 
it hard to remember to simplify our compositions. It was a 
real test in learning how to edit!

The first assignment was to complete a value study 
(monochromatic) of each composition.

After the value studies had been completed, we began our 
color studies. May I just say that it felt like there was never 
enough time to complete any of the paintings in this four-hour 

Having a value study to use as a reference was helpful when
the art principle of color was introduced.  We could look back
and forth between the value study and the color study to make 
sure the values were similar.

Introducing color added a level of complexity to our work. 
Selecting a value was relatively easy when we were painting 
with only one color. Having to determine the value of each new 
color required concentration and accurate observation! 

There was a lot of scraping and re-applying of the paint!

I was proud of the way in which the students worked. 
They didn't complain, they stayed focused and they 
produced some great work!

When I first began to plein air paint with a knife, my 
results were disastrous! I thought I was a pretty good 
artist but when I got out in the field (literally) and 
compared my first plein air paintings to those of the 
professionals in my group, I was embarrassed at the 
results of my efforts. I threw my first few plein air 
paintings in the dumpster (that was a mistake), 
however I stuck with it, improved my skills and I am 
seeing some success now.

It was worth the effort! 

Think of today's workshop as an exercise. Plein air 
painting is like everything else; it takes practice! Read 
some books on plein air and palette knife painting, 
take a few classes, but mostly - just paint. Add your 
brushes back into your plein air supplies with your 
palette knives. Combine the control of a paint brush 
with the spontaneity and liveliness of your palette knife.

Keep your plein air paintings in a box somewhere 
and in a year or so - get the old paintings out and 
see how much you have improved. Have some fun! 

Happy painting!!



  1. Hello Susan, this is a wonderful blog post you have written about Spring City, my town.
    Thank you for coming down to participate in the plein air competition.
    Love your art and your photographs of Spring City.

    Gina Garner
    Spring City

  2. Thanks, Gina! I just went to your blog and poked around. You are an amazing photographer. The pictures are so professional and colorful. I had no idea that your ceramic work was so well known. Kudos to you and thanks for sharing your city with me!