Plein Air Figure Study Painting — ‘Coffee Shop’


20 Min. Quick Start


After Another Hour


My Figure Study Painting Evolves

The images above illustrate the development of my latest figure study painting. I had the good fortune of attending a fabulous art workshop here in Austin last week. The event was conducted by two of my favorite local painters: Virginia (‘V’) Vaughn who specializes in landscapes — and Robin Cheers, a figure study painter.

The workshop went for 3 days, and we alternated between the landscape and figure study painting genres. On two mornings we painted plein air out at Brushy Creek Park. We spent the rest of the time in Joel’s Coffee Shop, painting from photos and from a real live model. It was an excellent combination of two rather diverse genres. V and Robin even managed to perfectly combine the two, when they presented us with a model who posed next to the creek!

Not only are these two artists great people, but they are wonderful teachers — and so humble and eager to share any tips that might get through to us. I’m sure I’ve heard some of those things before; but sometimes the time is just not right to absorb the concept until you hear it today! You know that moment when it finally sinks in . . . Oh, THAT’S what you mean!

Robin and Virginia were so enthusiastic and eager for us to be successful with our landscapes and figure study paintings. They emphasized doing “quick starts” which pushed us to capture the big picture and not “noodle around” too much on the details. We were instructed to get the main shapes of darks and lights of the figure study painting on the canvas, and then go for an exact recording of the color notes for later completion. At first the time limits seemed impossible; but the pressure was on to address the main parts, and it really made us improve rapidly.

Future Figure Study Paintings

I came home with 8 quick start figure study paintings that are solid beginnings for completion in the near future. Well, there might be a dud or two in there; but I am now confident I can take the next step and complete most of them. I also came away with a deeper yearning to do more figure study painting — both plein air and from photos. I really find it fascinating. My next project will be a larger version of a one of these figure study paintings — my favorite subject Charly posed by some tulips. Robin declared that the small “study” version was complete enough, and I should start on the big one — gulp!

It’s a rather intimidating 30″x40″. Yesterday, I wasn’t QUITE ready, so I completely reorganized my art studio(!) and worked the ‘Coffee Shop’ figure study painting, just to bring it a little further along. I paused at one point, thinking i was done; but when I examined the photo, I found at least three chair/table legs were missing!!! Well,  I wanted to be expressionistic, but I just had to add them in. At least her chair looks like it will stay upright now!

The three day workshop was bliss. There is something so invigorating about taking an art class, and switching between figure study painting and working on landscapes. It is so much more than just the art instruction. From the instructors to all the participants, there are so many things to be learned about how to make your painting passion work into your everyday life — and some are very successful at making it happen everyday! There are all those operational questions:
“Do you carry a sketch pad around with you?” (Several did all the time, several kept them in the car). “What paint brands and colors are best? Where do you get your business cards printed? What local events do you participate in?” (Check out the Marble Falls and Kerrville art festivals). “Where are there places to practice my figure study painting? Do you have a dedicated space for painting?” (I felt very lucky to have a whole room!)

I really don’t have any major obstacles; but we all struggle with letting other ‘things” get in the way. It is fun to find out that you are not the only one who needs a big old “kick in the pants”.

And now — I hope you all have identified YOUR passion! Take some time and just do it! Today! . . . or reorganize your space 😉

About Valerie Rawlings

Austin, Texas oil painter focusing on portraits, landscapes and still life paintings
This entry was posted in Figure Studies, Paintings of Women. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Plein Air Figure Study Painting — ‘Coffee Shop’

  1. Carrie says:

    I really like this! I’m looking forward to the one of Charly!