This painting of the Atlanta Botanical Garden was done en plein air at the change of seasons from late summer into early fall. It shows the perennial border and a view of the downtown skyline through some of the garden’s mature trees. It was a partly cloudy day with high overcast, so the colors and shadows are soft and somewhat muted. I like the contrast of the look of a classic English garden in the foreground with the city skyscrapers in the distance. There is a little early fall color in the trees, which signals the coming of fall in this otherwise very green scene.
When painting on site, you have to deal with a whole assortment of variables from weather and changing light conditions to other people in the area to restrictions about where you can set up (“keep off the grass,” etc). There is also the need to work quickly as the light is always changing with the movement of the sun angle. For this reason, most plein air paintings are quick sketches completed in a few hours, and like this one, are small (9×12 inches in this case).
In spite of the challenges, I enjoy this type of painting experience very much. And speaking of challenges, I’d be remiss not to talk about the bright pink tree on the left side of the canvas. It was actually a dead tree that had been spray-painted that very unnatural color! Ordinarily, I would avoid including something like that, but did due to some of the set-up limitations mentioned above. Without a strong feature in that location, the whole composition would have been unbalanced, given the mass of tall, dark trees on the right side. While I did tone down the color a bit, it’s the unplanned surprises like this that often pull a painting together. In my experience, any good painting takes over from your original idea and makes a life of its own. That’s what I like about art.