Studio vs. plein air painting, 2017


by cheri sabraw

I returned to oil painting last year after a 50-year hiatus, setting up  my studio in one of our guest bedrooms.

In order to acquaint myself with painting in general, I tried several subjects in acrylic paints.

Bunny and Kitten and Labrador Acrylics 2016

“Bunny and Kitten” 11×14 acrylic on canvas and ” Dinah” 9×12 acrylic on canvas

And this one, again from my photography, taken on a lonely road trip down Highway 25 on the eastern side of King City, California.

"Highway 25" Acrylic on Canvas 12x24

I was ready to oil paint, asking my friend Linda how to clean my brushes!

The process has been stimulating to be sure. I’ve read many articles about oil painting, consulted some of my friends who paint, and studied the paintings of the 17th century  by the Dutch Masters in order to learn glazing.

The results? Well. At this point, I can say I am satisfied with my progress but have so much to learn. As my friend Glenys reminded me…once a painting is done, varnished, and hung, the errors begin to make themselves known, like small fears bubbling from the unconscious.

I am a slow painter, adding layers of color gradually, trying to establish a depth and luminescence.

I think I achieved my goal with this 24X30 oil on canvas titled “At Rest.”IMG_1101

Again, using my own photography this time, I painted “The Tenant,” one of our barn owls from last winter.


The last painting I completed in 2017 is this one, a large oil (24×36) on canvas of a bison with an impasto set of curls approaching the photographer. It is titled “No Discouraging Words.”


“No Discouraging Words” 24×36 oil on canvas

I was feeling pretty good about my accomplishments in 2017 until I enrolled in a plein air painting class way out by the Salt River in the Tonto National Forest.

There, I learned just how difficult it is to mix every color of the rainbow out of 4 base colors plus white.

Trying to mix the oils and then draw and paint a well proportioned horse proved to be a challenging and (at times when the horse switched directions) frustrating  experience.

And then there was Drago, the beautiful young and muscular quarter horse, who modeled for us at the Scottsdale Artists’ School.

Alas, my rendition, done in 1.5 hours as the light changed, makes healthy Drago look as if he is ready for the knacker.


I thank my newly-made friends from that class–Cindy Lou from Dallas, Shelley from La Jolla and Marla from Madison for their good cheer and instruction.


About Cheri

Writer, artist, cable television host, grandmother to four!
This entry was posted in My painting, My photography, plein air painting and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Studio vs. plein air painting, 2017

  1. Linda says:

    I think you have made huge progress and have shown a wonderful talent in what you have accomplished to date. As for Drago – just remember – a painting is done when you say it is done. You have a wonderful base to work from – there is no rule that say this painting is complete. Just keep working it and Drago will get “younger” and more “vital” with just the stroke of your brush.

  2. Brig says:

    I see lots of improvement and agree with Linda, keep working it til you get it where you want.
    I was fortunate to have a wonderful instructor, a local farm wife, but so much more, early on. While under her wing I painted my best cloudy sky over the horse barn on the home ranch. Sadly that painting went to live with the head curator of the Newark Museum, and I shall never see it again.

    • Cheri says:

      Wow! I know you have painted in your past but to have a curator take your painting…I would love to see that one. You have lived in some wide open spaces with beautiful vistas. Your next chapter remains to be written and perhaps your best painting remains to be imagined and painted.

  3. Carol McCann says:

    Cheri, when I was painting years ago,I had to remind myself that patience is a virtue. You are doing reallywell. Every painting has a different set of of problems. Linda is correct when stating that the painting is finished when you say that it is finished. It may take several years.

    • Cheri says:

      Good point, Carol. I did not know that you, too, were a painter. When we taught together, I rarely asked about your life. Now that I am older, I am eager to retrace your life steps. As soon as I know I will be in Portland for more than 2 days, I will be in touch. Or, you could start your own WordPress blog and begin to tell your story to me (and others).

      • Cheri says:

        Good point, Carol. I did not know that you, too, were a painter. When we taught together, I rarely asked about your life. Now that I am older, I am eager to retrace your life steps. As soon as I know I will be in Portland for more than 2 days, I will be in touch. Or, you could start your own blog and begin to tell your story to me (and others).

  4. bogard says:

    Hi Cheri,
    First, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and the Judge from Butterfly Lady and me. Love seeing your work, framed and hanging no less! Glad you were able to take some courses for plein air, definitely something on my list for the the New Year (I’ve finally decided on the set up I want and will order after the holidays). I am really impressed with your first effort (last photo), especially with regards to the brush work and color. Very similar to what I see in video courses on you tube. You are on your way. It’s a big challenge. A couple of people I like to watch are Jose Salvaggio, Jessica Henry, and Michael Chamberlain. Chamberlain is from San Bruno and paints along the coast, peninsula, and SF. I really relate to his philosophy and style. Online site, facebook and pinterest:
    I know I promised you some photos from Tahoe Concourse D’Elegance and I will get that done next week via email. Hope all is well with Sabraw/Block clans. Happy Holidays to all!

    • Cheri says:

      Thank you Bill. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and Butterfly Lady. Before you buy your easel, connect with me by email. I learned a great deal at the seminar from the very experienced group of women who have been plein air painting for over 30 years. I also learned how to mix an interesting palette. You DID promise me some of your photos…I look forward to receiving them and reminiscing of our wonderful visit last August.

  5. shoreacres says:

    The last painting I did involved an easel, an apron, and fingerpaints, so I can’t add anything to the discussion in terms of technique. I will say that I really like that owl. The way the hole is arranged behind it, it has the look of an icon. You’ve captured differences in the bison fur, too, which aren’t always so well done.

    Your mention of the changing light while you were painting Drago made me think of this, which I think you’ll appreciate.

    • Cheri says:

      Oh, I loved that link. Ninety canvases in order to capture the changing light every seven minutes. I’m pleased you like The Tenant. I like the composition with the owl box to the right and the dark green oaks to the left. I have given that painting to my grandson Nathan who liked the painting from the beginning and commented often.

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