Sunday, September 04, 2016
Plein air painting or painting on location has become a "thing" for landscape artists. All the talk, the term plein air, has trickled down to the masses. Competitions, workshops and so on have reinvented the basic idea of plein air painting. With rare exception until recently the process of painting on location was to learn, create studies, explore ideas, to then take into the studio for a work of art that would eventually find it's way to the gallery wall and then on to a collectors home. It was a long journey that took time and thought.
With the last 20 year or so, reinvention of the plein air movement, artists, organizations and collectors have put on the pressure to create finished, super paintings. With all the "painting process plates" of value, composition, design, color, edges etc. in the air, it's tough in the field not to drop one or two. For the beginner it's almost impossible. With that pressure the simple pleasure of painting on location can be lost.
Admittedly I enjoy the pressure of a plein air competition. It forces me to finish each painting, knowing I will be judged by the formal juror and all the other artists.
During last years event in Carmel I made an effort to paint scenes that offer the collectors a nice selection of local views with the mood of the day, highlighted. Below is an example of catching the incoming fog bank off the ocean as it drifts up the rural Carmel Valley.
Carmel is a tough plein air event because you never know what the day will bring as far as the light. It's not unusual to wake up the morning, a thick layer of fog hanging over the trees. Tempting as it is to tuck down in the warm blankets, I jump up and dash off to paint. I didn't mention yet and some may not know, time is fleeting. In this event we have 2 days to finish as many paintings as possible. Most artists finish at least 4, often as many as 6 or 7.
Here is one morning set up of all my gear and the view I picked to work with.
At this point the painting is pretty well figured out and nearly finished. It's time to move on to the next location and start again.
Talk about a change in the light! Just a little while longer and bright sparkling light is bouncing off the sand and sea. While painting on location it's a good idea to at least have a guess where the light is heading and the weather in general for the day. This way you can paint where the light is headed, not what you see when you first set up. Then you have a bit more time to paint the scene before it's entirely gone. Again, this is very tough for the artist first starting to paint on location, unexpected clouds can ruin their experience. My advice to them would be to take that sunlit canvas off the easel put up a blank one and create a new study of the cloudy day. Think of the learning possibilities, not the fact that your original scene is gone with the light.
At the end of a plein air competition all the artists frame and hang their paintings. You can see two of the paintings that you saw in process, framed and on the wall in this photo.
If you decide to venture out painting, give yourself the freedom to explore, enjoy and paint with pleasure. Sir Winston Churchill, wrote a lovely little book "Painting As a Pass Time", on the joys of plein air painting, saying eloquently what we all feel struggling out of doors.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Very early in the morning the plant life on the dunes take on a violet hue to match the cold breeze off the ocean. It is so very quiet, even the waves seem like a hundred miles away. Standing there painting, I felt like the only person on the earth with a strong sense of timelessness.
14" X 18", Oil
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
One of the advantages of camping along the Big Sur coast, is that you can stumble out of your tent as the sunlight comes streaming though the mountains at dawn. Without another soul around, accompanied by the singing of the birds and just absorb the cool quiet beauty of a fresh new day. That is the inspiration for this new painting, for an upcoming exhibit featuring California's Highway One.
Oil on canvas, 24" X 36"
Thursday, June 09, 2016
Last January while staying in the lodge at the base of Yosemite Falls it snowed all night, blanketing the world in pristine shades of white. This was the view as I walked down the lodge staircase, being very careful not to fall on the ice but all the time gazing at the sunlit granite. Next year I will be showing in an exhibit of paintings highlighting the Sierra Nevada range and painting this little piece allowed me to explore the possibilities of creating a very large painting with this scene.
18" X 14", Oil
Saturday, January 30, 2016
This group of Sycamore live in the Placerita Canyon Nature Center, just down the road from my home. The California drought has been rough on all the plant life and this years rains have brought promise for wildflowers and some beautiful landscapes that have been absent for a long time.
From the creating side of this piece, it's so difficult for me to decide "it's done". I keep attacking the trees, pushing light here and there, adding limbs and tweaking here and there. I stopped at this point and will let it rest for a few days, out of my sight and look at it anew. Usually, only then is it really easy to see, what needs to be addressed to make it a good painting or possibly, decide it's truly finished.
18" X 24", Oil
Friday, January 01, 2016
"Alpine Glow", 16" X 20", Oil
"A Break in the Storm", 16" X 20", Oil
In a couple of weeks I am showing with PAC6 at Hillside Fine Art in Claremont, with a show that has a very unusual concept. Here was the task: Create 2 sets of paintings. Two views of the same scene in different weather, season or time of day. Above are images of one of my set's. Last October I traveled with PAC6 to Yosemite and we experienced painting in rain storms, frozen meadows and in sunny fall glory, all in the span of one week. My first two views are along the Merced River behind the Yosemite Lodge. What a difference a day makes!
If you would like to come to the show and see the "double takes", created by PAC6, please come! The show opens on January 17th and runs until February 28th. We will all be present for the reception February 6th, from 5pm - 7pm. Here is the gallery website for more details.
*PAC6 is a group of 6 women artists committed to painting the beauty and grandeur of the American landscape. The group is: Linda Brown, Debra Holladay, Nita Harper, Marian Fortunati, Sharon Weaver and Laura Wambsgans.