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Another Perspective – Rusty Jones

Although I try to modify my painting technique to accommodate each subject, I realize that I, like most artists, have certain dispositions that have worked for me over the years. No matter how hard I try, they tend to dictate the overall direction of my approach to each painting. It’s a bit like the distinct, recognizable handwriting that is peculiar to each of us. It’s difficult to change something within our nature that is so indelible.

So, once in a while, I like to ask an artist that I respect to sit in, and demonstrate his or her approach to painting, as a way of expanding the horizons.

I’m pleased that my good friend, Rusty Jones, who I’ve known for years, agreed to do a demonstration oil painting for this month’s newsletter. I think you’ll like Rusty’s direct painting approach, and strong use of value and color.

Rusty is a Texas-based artist with a Masters of Science Degree in Medical Illustration. He spent three decades providing highly technical medical art for major pharmaceutical and medical products companies, as well as medical journals, surgical atlases and ad agencies. His abiding love for sports led Rusty to illustrate for virtually all the top golf magazines, the Coca-Cola Foods division for the Summer Olympics, the Dallas Cowboys NFL team and the Dallas Mavericks NBA team.

With a successful transition to fine art, Rusty, the recipient of numerous painting awards, has become one of the foremost painters of the American Western landscape.

I’m including a couple of Rusty’s paintings below, but if you want to see more work and know more about the artist, I encourage you to visit Rusty’s website at:



Terlingua Creek 12x16 oil

Almost Home  9x12 oil

(click on any image to view larger)

Demonstration Painting: “Rosita’s Bridge”

"Rosita's Bridge" is one of several bridges found along the San Antonio river. This one leads to the LaVillita stage where outdoor productions are performed. The Spanish style building on the right of the painting serves as dressing rooms for the actors. Sandra Bullock filmed a scene for Miss Congeniality on this stage. The bridge is named after internationally renowned singer Rosita Fernandez who adopted San Antonio as her home in the early 1920's. She performed on this stage for 30 years at the annual Fiesta del Rio festival raising money for local children's charities. She also appeared in John Wayne's 1960 film "The Alamo".

Step 1. THE SKETCH. Drawn from photo reference and an on-location plein air sketch I draw on a blank, non-toned oil primed canvas. I tone my canvases about half the time, but this painting has these really brightly lit buildings on the right side so I use the white of the canvas in this area as my brightest spot on the canvas. The darks I put in initially will be judged against the bright white.


Step 2. THE BLOCK-IN. Moving rather quickly I try to get the block-in done in less than an hour on this 22" x 28" canvas. I tend to tighten up when I go from a small plein air sketch to a larger studio painting so I make a point to put down my strokes at about the same pace I use outdoors. Using large brushes and large pools of paint I put detail out of my mind and only work on general placement of the main objects and concentrate on value relationships. This includes deciding what time of day it is and where the sun is coming from. The San Antonio River winds its way through downtown San Antonio so the light is in constant motion as the sun moves in and out of clouds but also the tall office buildings along the river add shadows across the river that have to be dealt with. This bridge is only in light for about twenty minutes each day. The rest of the time it is in shadow.

Step 3. CLOSE UP. I lay in the main masses by painting one mass right up against another without touching or dragging paint from one mass into the other. This allows me to judge my value relationships quickly and if the block-in fails I can stop, wipe off the canvas and start over or continue with the painting if the relationships are working.

STEP 4. BLOCK-IN CONTINUES. Continuing the block-in and some modeling. I'm a little concerned about the blue shadows on the white building. It looks good in my small 9" x 12" study, but on this larger piece it might be too much. I start to model from back to front starting with the trees and constantly judge elements against the blue shadows on the right. I decide to wait until I get the river put in before making any final judgments on the blue shadows. There is also a large pole that sits on each side of the stage that holds the lights and I haven't decided whether or not to put it in. I'm concerned it might attract too much attention.

STEP 5. COMPLETION. I complete the river and go back over the trees with more definition. I make the decision to add the light pole and I'm glad I put it in. I finally decide the blue shadows are too blue so I tone them back. I like the cool shadows playing off the warm colors in the bridge so I leave the shadows a cool blue but there are shots of warm tones that may not appear in the photo. This is one of those areas in the painting I will come back to in a week or two and look at again with fresh eyes.

Rosita’s Bridge”  22x28 oil


My practice is to put a new painting into a closet for a minimum of two weeks so I don't see it. Then I take it out, put it on the easel and give it a critical look. First the painting has to have a WOW factor, which means I'm glad to see it again. If something is wrong, it usually hits me pretty quickly, and I have to decide to fix it, or trash the painting altogether. Luckily I don't trash too many paintings.

-- Rusty Jones


I hope this has been informative and instructive. I thank Rusty for his wonderful contribution.

Happy Painting!