Green Lake Artist Brings Moments to Life Through Color and Light

March 18, 2016 6:10am

Green Lake painter David McGranaghan is the subject of a new video created by UW Journalism student Grace Swanson.

You may remember our feature on David last year and perhaps you’ve even seen him painting various landscapes around the lake. In the video Grace asks him several questions about his art techniques, passion for painting and connection to Green Lake. Grace does a great job of showing a bit more behind the scenes of David’s world and even gets the often stoic artist to smile a few times.

Here’s more about the project and the specific style of David’s painting style in Grace’s own words.


By Grace Swanson

On a typical Seattle day with scattered rain showers, artist David McGranaghan is capturing the moments and his experience at Green Lake through light, color and oils.

Snippets of time are brought to life as his paintbrush kisses the canvas. A woman in a pink sweatshirt races across the space and down the lake shore path. In another moment, a cyclist rides along lush trees and sparkling water. Each painting tells a story.  

He paints with a plein air technique, a style that occurs outdoors and involves small, visible brush strokes. Plein air, a French phrase meaning “in the open air,” has its roots in 17th and 18th century Rome and mid 19th century France. His palette includes oil paints of magenta, yellow, cyan, raw amber, and white.

The Seattle area has a large community that celebrates the technique and artists who enjoy painting outdoors. Each year the Plein Air Washington Artists group holds a large show with a different theme at the American Art Company, a studio in Tacoma. Plein air artists from around the state gather to exhibit their work.

Pat Meras, a member of the Plein Air Washington Artists, has been working with this technique for the last 15 years. Although it can be a challenge, she believes plein air is a great exercise to strengthen her studio painting. When working outdoors she must focus on the way light behaves rather than depend on a photo from her camera. The light changes quickly, requiring artists  to work in a two-hour window.

“If you don’t, you will end up with a schizophrenic painting,” she said.  

Seattle-based painter Brooke Borcherding, who is also a member of the Plein Air Washington Artists, says there has been a plein air resurgence among professional painters. Painting outside gives artists more information about a scene than a two dimensional photograph.

Since taking her easel outdoors in 2009, Borcherding has depicted scenes in nature and urban environments. The two-hour time constraints of plein air painting forces her to be hyper-focused, the aspect of the art form she loves the most.