For the second day of the workshop, we headed out to Myakka River State Park. It's probably one of my favorite places here to paint in. The road takes you through woods so dense with live oak and cabbage palm that it's like driving through a tunnel, and then suddenly you pop out into the sunlight with a vista. Several pull-offs give you good views of the river snaking off into the distance. Where the live oaks end, the palms take over; where the palms end, the marsh grasses spring up; and then in the water you see ibis, egrets, wood storks and sandhill cranes.
After a quick stop on the main bridge to see some alligators snoozing in the café au lait water, we drove on to the concession area. Here, you can tour Myakka Lake on an airboat or, if you dare, venture out with a canoe or kayak. (Can alligators upset a canoe?) Trails lead you into the woods and then to a dam built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. By this dam last year, I watched some locals fishing for tilapia with nets. But I always love the trees here - massive, muscular live oaks festooned with Spanish moss.
Early in the day, I did one 5x7 oil demo for the group, focussing on the shadow shapes cast by the oaks and palms on a field of grass. Later, as the day grew hot, I did a second painting, which is featured below. The students remarked that the brush work and color on this one was much more vigorous and enjoyable. I told them, truthfully, that I painted it that way because I had gotten tired. When I get tired, I think less and shoot more from the hip. It'd be nice to be able to paint this way all the time. (But without actually being tired, of course!)
"Myakka Live Oak" 5x7, oil
For this painting, I skipped any thumbnail sketch or underpainting. I wanted to get right down to business. With a scene as contrasty as this, and which already has strong design elements, it's easy to wing the composition. It's more fun that way. Also, I didn't want to lose time with the underpainting, so I mixed my colors exactly the way I wanted them - even using white when necessary - and applied them directly. For "direct painting," you can't get any more "direct" than this.
In the middle of the day, we headed to the little restaurant for seafood gumbo. Gator stew was also on the menu, but I don't think anyone was brave enough. I try not to eat anything bigger than me.