About the Piece – North Hills in Raleigh

Until this year, I had only painted with acrylic. It’s less expensive and I was simply more familiar with it. That changed at the beginning of the year when a local arts and crafts store was shutting down and the entire inventory was 70% off or higher. So, I bought a few tubes of oil paint.

As with my acrylic paints, I only purchased red, blue, yellow, black and white and mix my own colors as needed. I did buy a tube of green in oil paint however, simply because I was uncertain about mixing and I couldn’t resist at 70% off.

This is to give background as to why this painting of North Hills in Raleigh is only the second plein air painting I’ve done. I had always believed oil paints were messy in addition to being expensive, so in as much, I only had my acrylic paints. To paint a plein air with acrylic paint I would need a continual rotation of clean water cups, something to store the paint in, I’d have to be more concerned with the temperature outside as acrylic paint dries fairly quickly. It seemed like a whole production…a hassle.

I quickly learned that oil paints are incredibly NEAT to work with. Just a paper tower to wipe the brush off with and its good to go. The paint itself comes out very thick from the tube so its not running all over the place, so I just bring a single paper plate to use as a pallet. The only tedious aspect of an oil painting is that it takes days, or weeks to cure (dry). So once it’s done, you just have to keep it safe when transporting.

Found a spot.

Moving along now, I chose to look at this piece and discuss it first because it is as of this writing, the last piece I’ve completed. It was done on a Saturday night in November, nice evening out in the 60’s(degrees, not 1960’s…or 2060’s for that matter), at the North Hills Midtown area in Raleigh, North Carolina.

I had a few hours to myself out that way that evening so decided I would find a spot to paint. I’m not fully familiar with the area, and this is the first time I’d ever been to this particular section, as it was newer. On one side of the main road there are shops and on the other, there are restaurants and hotels. After walking around for about an hour and realizing I only had about an hour of sunlight left, I settled on a courtyard area flanked by condos and a restaurant at the end of the courtyard.

The restaurant looked pretty interesting with lights and a series of canopies over the outdoor dining area. So I sat on a bench and went to it.

First, I sketched out what I was looking at in pencil. I don’t fully adhere to my under sketches, I just use them as a way of blocking out the area a bit better and figure out my pacing of the painting. I started with the sky. It was about 40 minutes before sunset when I started so while there was still blue, there was also a good sense of that French vanilla tone stretching down to the horizon afforded by the buildings.

From the sky I began giving a basic sense of the taller buildings in the background who had begun to melt into the sky a bit, but there was still a lot of play in the lighting and I wanted to really punctuate this…especially since it was changing so rapidly with the sun going down. Generally if I can, especially with oils and being outside, it’s best to try to paint from top to bottom as not to accidentally catch yourself resting your hand on the painted bottom areas.

So once I got a sort of placement paint down I started on the main restaurant. The effect of the lighting on this part of the work was interesting because I started it while it was still fairly light out and was still working on it into the dark, so there are elements of what the building and canopies looked like in full light, at dusk and in the dark. Luckily the courtyard was somewhat lit up so I was still able to see what I was doing – even if my perception as to what my colors looked like was not 100% accurate.

The finished paintingg

While I was painting, several people would stop and talk and comment or simply stand behind me and watch. Being that this is only the 2nd plein air painting I’ve done and being locked up at home for months…actually years, but that’s a different story…it was nice to have people coming up to me and I do plan on doing another one of these around Raleigh or Durham in the near future. Preferably if it warms up a little bit.

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