"Plein-air painting in a secluded place, out of the wind, in the sun, amongst painting friends, mid week, with nature on show, what more could an artist want".
Karol Oakley Artist and Educator
Pastel painting by Karol Oakley
12 x 9"
ColourFix Original Paper
Available from the Artist
Rotto, what a real Australian name. It cracks me up that most names in Australia are shortened to two syllables and end in 'o' (or 'a') there's Jonno, Rosso, and more. So last week I headed over to Rotto with a group of Western Australian Artists who have an ongoing love affair with this magical Island.
Rotto is of course Rottnest Island, the playground of Perth, loved for its beaches, fishing, swimming and those adorable little mammals the Quokkas for which the Island is named. Rottnest is known as Wadjemup to the first nation local Noongar people.
For the uninitiated like me, when the dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh first landed on the Island back in 1696, he saw these 'huge rats' and named it "t Eyladt 't Rottenest ( "Rats Nest Island") after the Quokkas that lived there. Today Rottnest Island has a history that's well worth learning about. The Island has volunteer guides who's knowledge is amazingly detailed and who are happy to tell the stories of Rotto to visitors.
Our plein-air group had two of these guides, who told some of the stories and shared the best locations for painting. Local knowledge is unique and makes for the best painting trip. Thanks to Sue and Sue for sharing your experience and taking me to some of the more off track locations.
Rotto has a bus service that goes every half hour from the main settlement around the Island, dropping people off and picking them up. We caught this bus to pre-determined locations each day. We did this planning as there was only a short time on the Island and we wanted to make the most of it all.
Plein-air painting does require a bit of thought and planning. Otherwise it's about searching and not painting; how many of you have done this and ended up with a coffee and cake and no painting! Armed with the tourist map and local knowledge, we chose the best places to be in morning and afternoon light, out of the wind, when the wind changes and what the tide is doing, physicality, ease of access, toilets, coffee(only joking), how far to walk; were all taken into consideration for the best painting experience.
Now this particular day we had chosen to go to the southern end of the Island. This would see us out of the predicted wind direction while the colour of the water would be brilliant, and not painting into the sun. So lots of considerations in this painting location, all to make it comfortable while on site. Unfortunately two of our group couldn't make this trek as the long uphill walk, carrying their gear was not on. They stayed in another area and had an equally fine time plein-air painting in conditions that suited them.
Yes I am going to say it was tops! It was. I found a lovely place in the sun out of the wind and did a pastel painting that I was happy with. (see above) Alphonse helped me eat my lunch as we sat with the others looking out to sea. This still makes me smile, that looking out to sea here means the next stop is Africa. How cool is that?!
Plein-air painting can also show some gems of nature. This day we were near an Osprey nest. It's huge, it's old and re-used every year. While painting, and well away from the nest so as not to upset the feeding parents, we had the experience of hearing the birds call as they came into the nest with fresh food for the chick. It was interesting to see that the seagulls arrived first, then the crows, well before the parent with the take away food. Not your everyday experience but i was so amazed and chuffed to have seen this.
After lunch and a bus ride back to the settlement I continued on to do some pen and wash sketches and explore another part of the Island. At the end of the day watching the sunset over the bay, talking about the day, who went where and what they saw and did, looking at each persons painting talking art and more is the best of plein-air painting in a group.
If you are new to Plein-air painting my suggestion is to find a group to go out with and ask questions during a break or afterward. Try it and see how you go.
I'd love to hear your comments about plein-air painting, and how it works for you or what you might find the hardest aspect of going out to paint.
best wishes, Karol
Making Pastel Happen -
a blog about everything pastel and painting.
It's my aim to share techniques, tips, tricks, adventures, products, paintings, educate, inspire and foster the appreciation of painting.
I welcome your feedback and questions and don't promise to post regularly, but to let you know when I do post .
I'l give it my best shot to answer your questions and if I can't I'll let you know. Gee I may even be able to give you the name of someone who can answer.
Either way this blog is about making pastel happen and making painting enjoyable. I sincerely wish you to join me on this adventure. best wishes, Karol