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I believe that art enriches and informs our lives everyday in many positive ways. Sharing those experiences, whether as an artist or as an appreciator, is part of the pleasure. I welcome your comments and hope you find something of value: a laugh, an insight, a new idea or just a happy moment. Enjoy art!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Painting Without the Comforts of a Studio

With great respect for those who consider themselves purist in the "plein air" genre of painting, I want to explain a bit why I find the sport so difficult.

To the left is a "practice piece" I did the Friday before the Crossnore event.  I termed it practice as it had been a while since I went out and, unlike my tennis bag which is always filled with all I need, I was not certain my supplies were rounded up.  To forget your brushes or a specific tube of paint or even your terp or paper towels can make the day a no-go,  and yes, there were a few items I was missing.

Patti's Road: 8 x 10 oil on panel

Having all your supplies at the ready in a backpack is rule #1 of those venturing forth to paint in nature.  As a studio painter, I take breaks to hunt up something I cant find, or, horrors, dash to the store to acquire it.

Praying for Rain
unfinished oil on canvas, 12 x 16

The elements are another important factor in plein air work, as in, you gotta deal with the outdoor conditions which include bugs, heat, cold, and encroaching storms.  During the event I kept eyeing this barn to paint. By the day I got around to it we were watching a storm move in.  With the wind coming up I had to weigh down my easel...I watched as another artist's rig toppled due to the umbrella catching a gust and sailing off.  And of course the skies were changing rapidly meaning  I had to pack up before finishing this piece.  So back to the studio to work on it....altho some plein air purists would wait patiently for another stormy day so they could head back out and paint it authentically.

View off of Highway 221
11 x 14 oil  still in progress

My first day out I found gorgeous views of fields and mountains off of Highway 221....and no where to paint!  Finally I spotted an abandoned fruit stand on a sliver of land off a curve and pulled over to set up camp. Location, location, location: another critical factor in plein air work.   You cannot always set up where a photographer can grab a shot and run.  While composition is still an important part of the finished work, it is not always easy to get in a position that allows the perfect composition en situ.

One time I was so intent on getting the perfect view of a barn that I was not watching where I was going, I was merely scoping out the angle:

Slush!  I landed in the middle of a muddy ditch that was very hard to walk out of !  Now I was painting with very wet (cold) feet.

Hwy 221 View Reduex
oil on panel, palette knife, 11 x 14, plein air

Most plein air work is finished on site which means that you can only layer a few colors before the wet paint will not stick.  On the contrary I love to layer and layer and layer in the studio....because I can allow the paint to dry between layers.  Not only does this help create texture but other colors can peek through creating a lot of depth.  This was another piece I did off the highway but I came back to the studio to finish.

Like most new things we are challenged to learn, the more I paint plein air, the greater the joy.  I certainly intend to get out often this summer so that next time around I can spend more time enjoying the experience and less worrying about the outcome.  My painting sold at the auction for a very respectable figure so all is well that ends they say: nothing ventured nothing gained.

Hope you seize the next opportunity you have to stretch yourself a can be very rewarding.

Color fully yours,

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