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Step-by-Step Imaginair

I see many views that I want to paint, but don't have the time to paint.  Some sights are too glorious to forget and those I try to memorize and paint at the earliest possible opportunity!  These I call my imaginairs.  They are plein airs that I paint from memory.

Early monday morning my dad had car trouble, and on my way out to save the day, the sun rose over the bay.  I saw it from the top of a bridge.  I normally don't have time to capture something like this so fast, but yesterday I had some time so I painted away.  Hope you enjoy!

Step 0:  Remember everything that I saw.  (This image is really I cheat, but there's no other way to visualize this step.  This is the final image faded and blurred to approximate how memory looks.)

Step 1:  Outline the large shapes.  Every art piece needs a plan.  We put the idea of the finished piece to paper as soon as possible.  This gives us something to evaluate.  (Instead of evaluating a blank sheet of paper.)

Step 2:  Blocking in major shapes.

Step 3:  I realized that I made my trees too large for the composition that I wanted.  So I squished the composition to give more sky for the cloud effects that I was going to put there.

Step 4:  I should be just blocking in still, but I got carried away with the tree tops.  I will regret that later.

Step 5:  All blocked in!

Step 6:  Stretching the composition to bring the trees closer to us and still have a large sky.

Step 7:  Detail in the sky and tree tops.

Step 8:  Making the colors darker and more vibrant.

Step 9:  Finished detail.

I hope you enjoyed this as much I enjoyed the original sunrise!  There is something about the real thing that I cannot replicate.  But that's part of the thrill.  God created a magnificent creation full of complication and detail.  In observing and replicating it, we do not attempt something that we can easily do, but rather we attempt something that is so beyond our ability as to be unthinkable.  May we rejoice with God over His wisdom and creative power.


  1. Great painting and excellent thought at the end. The blurred version in step 0 reminds me of my drive on I-10 over the Blackwater River when it's foggy. Watch the forecast for fog and drive out that way before the sun is up if you want some special inspiration!

  2. I watched you. You make it look soooo simple.

  3. Matthew, I just discovered your blog. I really enjoyed your explanation. I have watched a few speed paintings on YouTube and been impressed with the skill and talent you have. I've always wished I could draw/paint, but doodling may be the sum total por moi ;-) Uncle Randy

  4. As far as capturing memories for future painting goes, is snapping a picture with a camera effective?

    1. Well, sometimes I do that, but sometimes the colors are so marvelous that no camera can really capture them. Also, when I'm driving sometimes I see things that I can't just photograph or paint right away.... ;) I'm posting another imaginair today.