“Vineyard Patterns” – An Oil Painting Demonstration by Jennifer Young

Step One: Choose a Scene

I often head out to the Virginia mountains to do some plein air painting, and on a morning last week I visited Veritas Vineyards in Afton Virginia. This is a beautiful winery and there are many possibilities for painting subject matter. However, my umbrella broke and I haven’t yet purchased a new one, which can make painting on location in an open field a bit difficult. If the sun is shining directly on your canvas, all you see is a bunch of glare and your paintings end up turning out way to dark and muddy as a result.Having said that, I can’t stress enough how important it is to take the time to choose a scene that excites and interests you. You have a better chance of producing a much better painting as a result. Luckily I came upon a nice shady spot in a private area off of the main road past the winery’s tasting room and became excited about this scene:
jennifer young landscape painting demo
Okay, so it loses something in my photograph, perhaps! But what I liked about this scene was the abstract shapes and patterns formed by the sweeping lines of the vines and ground. The light was constantly going back and forth behind cloud masses, making painting with consistent lighting very difficult. But that is the fun challenge of painting on location!

Step 2 – Lay out the Design

My paintings usually begin very inauspiciously, I’m afraid! All I want to do at this point is plan my layout and get the elements of the scene down in very abstract shapes.

painting demonstration Jennifer E Young

As you can plainly see, I have to work quickly with the changing light, so I don’t do a lot of detailed drawing. In fact, I’d say I do far fewer details in the plein air drawing stage than I do in the studio, and if any one were to come upon my painting at this stage they would hardly be impressed! But the marks mean something to me, and I guess that’s what matters. In the coming days I will continue to unfold this plein air painting demo, so stay tuned!

Step 3 : Lay in the Sky

I like to lay in the sky as early as possible in my process. The sky is the source of light and generally it appears to have the lightest tonal value in most landscape paintings. By laying in the lightest value first I can more easily judge value relationships (the relationship between lights and darks) for the rest of the painting.
Plein air painting demo by Jennifer Young

Step 4

With my sky in place, I can now judge how dark the mountain range should be. I begin to block in the distant mountains and trees, still with very little detail.
Painting demonstration en plein air
Plein air painting instruction Jennifer Young

Step 5

After I’ve blocked in the distant trees I step back and begin to reassess my composition. What is my focal point? The eye tends to like to zoom in on something when looking at a composition, and up to this point I’ve been focusing more on the abstract shapes of the vineyard to move the eye around the painting. This is good, but is there something more? I’ll let you know what I decide in the next installment!
I look again at my subject and notice a little tree in the field. To be honest, I am not sure that I had noticed it before. I decide to play up this element and use this as my focal point or center of interest:
Plein air painting by Jennifer Young
The light is really changing a lot now. Sun shines intermittently on my scene, but behind me there are some pretty threatening clouds. I decide I had better not dawdle around any more if I want to get this painting finished!
Plein air painting demo Jennifer Young

Step 6

To help my process along, I try and pre-mix large piles of the various colors I see in the rest of the landscape.
Oil painting demonstration by Jennifer Young

Step 7

I add a little more detail to the focal point tree than I do the background trees, which will help to push the little tree forward in the picture plane.
Landscape painting demonstration by Jennifer Young

Step 8

I really have to look hard to see the subtle variations in the green shades, but once I start painting in the ground and the vineyard, my picture begins to take shape.
Landscape painting of mountains by Jennifer Young
Plein air painting by Jennifer Young

Step 9

The clouds called off their threats so I was able to relax a little and put the finishing touches on my painting right there on the spot.
Vineyard landscape painting by Jennifer Young

“Vineyard Patterns”Oil on Canvas, 12×16

My process for painting in the studio is very similar to my process on location. The exceptions are that I don’t have size limitations, nor do I have to deal with the changing light, bugs, and sunburn! On the other hand, painting on location is an exhilarating challenge and helps me to develop my observation and decision making skills. It also gives a far better understanding of the play of light on the landscape.

Depending on the lighting conditions, color temperature changes dramatically. In a session of changing light like the one I had, I needed to make a decision early on about which lighting condition I wanted to go with, and then commit that to memory in case the sun went away completely!

Painting on location, (or “en plein air”, as the Impressionists used to say) is a wonderful complement to my studio work. I often use my plein air sketches and studies along with the many, many photos I take on site, to develop larger paintings in the studio.

These images are original works copyright of Jennifer E. Young, and are protected under International Copyright laws. They are for online viewing purposes only and may not be copied, saved to a computer hard drive, reproduced or distributed without the express permission of the artist.
Jennifer Young Jennifer Young is a professional artist from Richmond, Virginia, most known for her vibrant landscape paintings of France, Italy, and the American South. She is inspired by the beauty she observes on her frequent travels, and paints on location as often as possible.In addition to teaching painting workshops (www.jenniferyoung.com/paintingworkshops.htm) , she exhibits in galleries in the southeastern U.S., as well as in her own gallery and working studio in Richmond. Her paintings have been purchased internationally by both corporate and private collectors. She also maintains her own online gallery (www.jenniferyoung.com) and writes frequently about painting, art tips, travel, and the artist’s life on her blog, “Paintings of France, Italy, and Beyond” (www.jenniferyoung.com/blog.)


  1. says

    Thank you so much for the demonstration. I can’t wait for the chance to paint Plein Air and to try Oils. I am using Acrylics and mainly photos for now, due to the fact that I have a full time Factory job, not much time, and so much painting I want to do.

    I generally paint landscapes, wildlife and pet portraits. I have been told that I paint water very well. Check out my site, but keep in mind it is still under construction.

    Have a Great Week and thank you Jennifer! Leona Palski
    Antes Fort, Pa.

  2. dheeru says

    hi this is dheeru wanna join in ur creative spotlite art instruction blog
    i am very intrested in creativity

  3. Van Marciano Art says

    Wow absolutely inspiring, looking for some better weather to try out some outdoor painting. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Arthur Berube says

    Keep up the good,work I injoyed your painting of the vineyard very much and learned a lot. I am very new at this and having a great time. Art

  5. John Terrence says

    I like your method. It is simple but effective. My mother wants to start painting but puts herself off as she says she won’t be good. I’ll show her this site so she can see that she can start simply.

  6. Bill says

    “I wish they are my hands! I envy you.. Your demonstrations sounds so simple but when I try it, oh what a mess. I really do not have your talent.

  7. Henry says

    Wow – I really like this! I’ve never seen a painting as its been painted before in the different stages. I never would have guessed that it would have been painted in this order. I guess there really is a method to creating works of art like the vineyard painting. Thanks a lot for sharing the work in progress steps – they are amazing!

  8. Sheila says

    Thank you for sharing your demonstration.I learned a lot just by reading and watching your demo. I like to paint during my spare time or as much as possible.

  9. pat says

    Experienced painters with many years of painting under their belts will attest to the fact that fine quality paint brushes are an absolute necessity if you wish to create the perfect art piece. Such lessons encourages “the aspiring artist ” hidden in each human being of course you have to be lucky to find such lessons.

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