M. Stephen Doherty

M. Stephen Doherty
The editor of Plein Air magazine at work

Friday, September 13, 2013

Painting Larger Canvases Outdoors

Among the challenges I set for myself this summer is to paint larger plein air landscapes -- 16" x 20" and 20" x 20". I wanted to find out if I would be satisfied with pieces that were more loosely brushed and suggestive, to hopefully satisfy collector looking to fill more wall space, and to have a few paintings that would be focal points of an exhibition. As a result doing 6-8 larger paintings, I have established a way of covering more canvas real estate in 3-4 hours on location, balanced detail with gestured brush strokes, and overcome the intimidation of a large white surface.

The 20" x 20" painting of the waterfall in Shenandoah National Park was a greater challenge than I anticipated, mostly because I stupidly took the wrong trail and wound up hauling about 40 pounds of gear for several miles down to the falls. Nevertheless my stupidity could be excused by the sequence of photographs showing its development and by the success of completing the painting. To make me feel better, a woman who lives and works inside the park said I painted her favorite location. At least I stumbled into a picturesque setting.

The completed 20" x 20" painting oil painting

The painting of the path through the trees was painted near the first parking area going north into Shenandoah National Park. The scene called for a clear separation between the cool greens on the left and in the background and the warm trees leading diagonally into the space. I would have worked on this a bit longer, but as often happens at that elevation a storm moved in quickly, thunder demanded my attention, and heavy rains forced me to pack up and head for cover.

Working on a 16" x 20" painting of Blenheim Vineyard

A 16" x 20" painting created in Shenandoah National Park


  1. Very nice work, Steve. It's good to see you painting more. You seem to be riding life down a great path! Congrats!

  2. This is very impressive work, Steve. Though intimidating, this challenges me to try larger plein air painting, too.

  3. Nice paintings, Steve. I think you'll find that you will be able to paint even larger in just about the same amount of time as the smaller ones. 16 x 20 is the smallest I usually go for outdoors now. I want to see it when you break out the 30 x 40! ;)

  4. Very nice, Steve! I love painting 16x20 but have not ventured larger. You inspire me to do so. I just happened to stumble across your name in a FB post and thought go see what he is up to. Saw this about your blog. Can't wait to see what else you are up to!