One of the biggest thing that's been helping me get better as an artist is to not only paint from life, but to paint outside the studio altogether. There's something to be said for the immediacy of being IN an environment as one tries to quickly describe it with value and color. Whenever I look at a painting I did in this manner, it's like looking at a framed memory. I can remember the warmth of the sun, or the sound of crickets, or the people who ambled over to make conversation.
Yesterday I went out to a field just south of the old abandoned Walmart shopping center on College Avenue and did the above study. Midway through, the wind began to pick up -- note the diagonal clouds and waving tree branches -- but happily I'd remembered to weigh down the easel's tripod beforehand with my backpack and disaster was averted. (unlike what happened at MacGregor ranch: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_zVSkig76ir0/THw36vbyxrI/AAAAAAAAA6o/b7jZRYII4_c/s1600/It+had+to+happen+sometime.JPG)
I've got a couple of big projects coming up over the summer, but I've made a pact with myself to try to get out at least once a week and make a painting -- even if no one sees the results but myself.