A Crappy Plein Air Indeed

“The Chestnut Orchard” — plein air field study in oil on wood panel 8 x 10″ by Margie Guyot

Ok — this one was certainly not my best work, but I had the most fun I’ve had in ages! It was the most bizarre place: a chestnut orchard, It looked like a field of Tickle-Me Elmos! Thousands of them. I felt as weirded-out as if I’d set foot on the Moon. I can see where this could use some revision, of course. I took some reference photos. Maybe I’ll do a much better version of this when the snow is howling.

Here’s how they look when they fall from the tree. We were warned: the spines are sharp! We used a special tool to pick them up. And here’s how they look when out of their husk:

My friend Agnes took me over to this place, just north of Elk Rapids. I don’t know how many acres there were — 20? 40? This particular orchard was mostly European chestnuts and a small number of Chinese chestnuts. American chestnuts were lost years ago from a blight. The young couple had bought it a couple years ago and were busy harvesting. They let us pick some and graciously allowed to let us to stay and do a little painting.

It reminded me of another subject everybody loves to paint: a field of pumpkins. Which often look like a field of basketballs. Any artist friends out there who’ve painted a chestnut orchard, I’d appreciate some suggestions! And — speaking of tricky things to paint — every spring my friends and I gleefully charge out into apple orchards in bloom. And we’re always frustrated. Rows of flowering trees, all lined up like soldiers. Where’s the flow? The romance? Ach! A few years ago I had a class from a very respected senior member of the Oil Painters of America. When I asked him for advice on painting an apple orchard in bloom, he said, “Oh, I never paint those!” Hmmmmph!


  1. It is great to know there IS a chestnut orchard! I thought the American Chestnut was totally extinct due to the blight. I do love to eat chestnuts!


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