Thursday, July 7, 2011

Plein Air [ Painting ]

By Allie
Last night i set out on my very first, real, plein-air experience.  i feel ashamed to admit it, but even in art school for landscape projects, i would cheat (just a little) and paint from photographs in the comforts of my nice temperature controlled dorm room.  this time i was determined to do it right.

my bf and i packed up our truck with the essentials (picnic basket filled with brushes, (oil) paint, palette, palette knife, and a rag & my easel) and drove the 1/2 mile (yes, we are lazy) down to the river.

My Palette ( i just use an upside down glass cutting board): no black, and a whole lotta white. I'm a big fan of whites and grays, and mixing my own black if i ever need it. i think store bought black is way too artificial and overpowering in most of my work.
with my portrait work i love working in thin, delicate glazes, but for this night i went sans any paint thinner, or linseed oil, and instead just brought a ton of brushes so i could just use a different one for each color family and not have to clean them.

things i learned about painting outdoors (in no particular order):

1.  don't paint at dusk, just after it has rained (killer bugs)...

2. ... but if you do, DON'T run out of bug spray....

3. ... but if you do, a wet canvas catches gnats and mosquitoes remarkably well ( you can probably see a few stuck in the pic above).

4. i found it really hard to paint looking directly at the sun (it hurts my eyes, and since i was painting at sunset, the sun moved too quickly for me to capture it exactly the way wanted too) so midway through i decided to focus just on the sky, and eliminate the sun in my image altogether.

5. if you're painting at sunset or sunrise (or being attacked by bugs), be prepared to work very quickly, and stay flexible with your desired goal.

6. i was taught this is school, but always forget... to add white last... white and i have a love/hate relationship. mostly love. but i did get frustrated when my colors got just a little too muted and muddied by white.  and find that i am most satisfied and end up with the purest and radiant color when i lay down transparent hues first, and then opaques (white)

if i was to become a serious plein-air painter, i think i would probably invest in heavy duty citronella tiki torches, and a nice umbrella or tent to shield the sun.  i would love to spend an entire day at the beach, doing a one painting an hour.  hmm... ideas, ideas.

does anyone else have experience painting plein-air, any tips to make the transition from studio to outdoors any easier?  

its been a REALLY long time since i've tried painting landscapes... especially in just an hour. but for my first one in a few years i'm pretty pleased, and it was suprisingly refreshing to mix up my typical studio practice. try it soon!

i'm planning on doing a series of clouds.atmosphere.skyscapes. focusing on color (or lack there of, and whites), stay tuned!