Kelly Medford on Plein Air painting….. email recipients can: (comment here)
Today’s guest is Kelly Medford, a new friend and a “plein air” painter who currently bikes around Rome capturing the landscape and nuance of Italy. Seven years ago she spent a year at the Florence Academy of Art while a student at the University of TN, Chattanooga. (See her work at: http://www.kellymedford.com). Realizing that all her time had been in the studio Kelly vowed to get outside and paint the countryside….
Just what is “plein air painting?”
Kelly: It’s taking your easel and all other painting “gear” outside, setting up and painting the scene. I spend hours walking or riding my bike around looking for the right composition or the right light and then, bam! there’s a painting just waiting to be captured. It’s about being inspired by real life in the blink of an eye. I have my easel in a backpack and saddlebags on my bike. It’s a real challenge.
This sounds a little….hazardous?
Well, it’s not dangerous (if you have your gear system down pat) but you need to be mentally agile. For example, I usually wear sandals and once in FL I noticed way too late that I was standing in a fire ant bed; my feet swelled to the size of melons. You have to put up with the elements: wind, sun, cold, the annoying person who tells me I’ve painted it all wrong or the one who parks their car in front of my perfect composition.
But I like it. I was attracted by the level of spontaneity, unpredictability. I like being outdoors (farming didn’t work for me). I like the strong light and I love how people are surprised by someone out on the street painting.
Do they interrupt you?
Constantly, it’s part of the adventure. If you don’t like being friendly I suggest you wear oversized earphones and act like you are listening to music. But I enjoy sharing my work; sometimes they ask to buy the piece or want to see more on-line. Italians are a lot nosier than Americans. In the US people spoke to tell me I was trespassing…in Italy they tell me stories, they want to know why I picked a scene, they tell me they paint better, I’ve even been serenaded while painting on a bridge.
People are amazing, wonderful creatures and always have something fascinating to tell me. I can’t imagine painting in the studio every day; it would be so boring and lifeless without these odd interactions. People ultimately make me appreciate what I do.
So, you do not paint from photographs?
I’ve only used them if I need to finish up something and usually I toss them as memory and imagination better serve me. Without judging those who do, let me share my philosophy: I could take a photograph (which is also an art form) but copying it somehow lacks imagination. If I do a little sketch with a pencil, the lines will say everything about the place, the moment and how I feel about it right then. I’m an artist, I create something from nothing. I want to paint life in that moment…not make an accurate record of a static situation. You can enjoy my recent series of scenes in Rome "When in Rome" by clicking on the title.
Kelly, you have a challenging but exciting job; it’s obvious that you totally love what you do.
I do love it. I enjoy that every day is so unexpected: I have no idea what I will paint or who I will meet. It’s a lot like the weather: you can try to predict it but ultimately you have to experience it as it happens…and always dress accordingly!
For more of Kelly’s adventures visit her blog “Adventures in Painting” at http://www.kellymedford.blogspot.com, or contact Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org).