Monday, July 22, 2013

Plein Air - What's The Verdict?

Does plein air painting live up to it's reputation as being simultaneously
challenging yet romantic? Yep. That's the conclusion we reached at our
workshop in Alta, Utah on Saturday, July 20.
We were bathed in sunlight, surrounded by late
Spring flowers and refreshed by a cool mountain
breeze. What's not to like?

Well, for me it was the annoyance of buzzing
black  flies. But once I turned my focus to
painting, the flies were easy to overlook.
We set up our easels, selected individual views then began painting
preliminary value studies with black, white and gray paint.
Here is Cory's value study.
This is Jean's value study.
Here is David's value study.
Cory begins his work.
Blocking in the chunks of local color.
A great beginning block-in with oil paint.
David laying in his initial black and white values.
David is nearly finished with his full-color painting of Devil's Castle.
David's finished painting is rendered in acrylic.
Diana, working in watercolor, blocks in her value study.
Diana's watercolor is not quite finished and yet she has
successfully captured the energy of the scene.
Jean swats flies with one hand and paints with the other.
Here is Jeans finished oil painting.
Susie starts laying in a composition.
Her view of Devil's Castle.
Susie's finished oil painting.
Having to work quickly enough to capture the essence of a scene
and at the same time create a painting that is worthy of praise, is no
easy task, and yet each artist at the workshop went home with a
feeling of accomplishment and a successful painting in their hand.

The verdict is in: Plein air painting is worth the effort!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Plein Air Painting - A Respite From The City

This weekend I selected a sunny spot down a dirt road in Midway, Utah and decided to set up my easel for plein air painting (French for painting "outside")

Each year the Midway Art Association holds a week-long festival that has several plein air competitions and events.  I participated in two of them.

My first event was held on Monday morning. I checked in at the Midway Town Hall at 8:30 am and began searching for a spot that "spoke to me." My instructions were to stay within Midway town limits, complete my painting (including having it framed), and have my finished work hanging in the exhibit at the Town Hall by 12:00 noon.

Midway Town Hall

So, back to my sunny spot off the dirt road...

Part of the plein air experience for me was the smell and sound of my surroundings. The perfume of flowers filled the air. Bees were humming, birds were singing and it was a pleasant 75 degrees. The hazy air bathed the distant hills with soft pastel colors. In the nearby fields, the grass and trees still wore touches of bright Spring green while the deeper greens of summer peeked through.   

"Pathway To Summer," 8 x 10 oil on panel, completed with a combination knife/brush.

Wednesday's event found me painting securely beneath a tree at the "Cafe Galleria" across the street from the Midway Town Hall. I listened to the conversations of the patrons as they carved their way through waffles and sipped their coffee. It's funny how far sound travels when there is no traffic and big city noise...

A beautiful woman and her companion sat down at the exact table that was the focus in my painting. I could hear her French accent and I bravely entered the conversation by uttering a few words in French.  She smiled and responded. She told me she was a "cheese maker" in Midway and that she used to live in Colorado where she owned a herd of goats. Wow. That's the kind of story that brings a painting to life!

 "Morning Cup," 10 x 10 oil on canvas

Plein Air painting is different from studio painting, but once you get the hang of it, you are hooked! If you like the great outdoors and you like the challenge of having to complete a painting (warts and all) in a short time, then you might like outdoor painting.  Get yourself a good teacher, some willing art companions (misery loves company) and bring along plenty of snacks!
Here's a link to two upcoming plein air events that would be great for beginners. Why not attend a workshop to see if plein air painting is a good match for you!