Painting outside is not everyones cup of tea.
All sorts of obsticals can easily be found, all a sure way to stay in the studio. So just why do so many artists paint plein-air and rave about it?
I can tell you about my first plein-air experience, it was exciting, hard work and with a dismal result of a painting. Even with all that, I loved it. I came back for more, now years later I still love going into the great outdoors to paint.
What changed you might ask? Why do I paint plein-air ?
It was the realisation that what I was seeing outside left a colour photo print for dead. There was so much more information available to me to use when I painted from life and outdoors. I could see such a wide variety of colour and detail that photos didn't show. Also the tones are vastly different in life than in a photo. There is such subtlety in the shadows to say the least. (Now how that all works is a story for another day.)
A finished plein-air painting seems to have a look and a light in it, that studio work made just from photos can't equal. You would have seen this at exhibitions, art-shows and in the gallery. The work that is painted from life and/or 'en plein-air' is more alive, fresh, vibrant and inviting. This work is so different and easily picked as 'different'. It's in the look and more.
While plein-air painting has 'that look', it has more, it also has a 'feeling' to it. You have noticed that right? Sometimes it's hard to put your finger on but its there. Paintings created 'en plein-air' not only find more tonal detail and more subtlety in the colours, they also pick up, for want of a better word, a certain feeling / emotion that then becomes part of the painting.
Artists react to the energy and or emotion of a subject. This can be consciously or sub-consciously. It is this response to the subject, the artists way of interpreting what they see and feel, which makes a painting stand out. This is the 'why' of painting plein-air for me. It is all about reacting emotionally to the subject and using the painting tools of colour, tone, temperature and so on to describe what I see. It is about getting involved wholly and souly in what you are doing, being in the moment, totally absorbed, reacting, painting. That's the 'why'.
This all comes with practice. Like any 'thing' we do it needs practice, repetition and consistency to go forward. That first plein-air painting expedition I did, was an eye opener. It was hard to see the tones, it was physically hard to cart all my gear a fair distance to the paint site, which I eventually found after walking in circles for ages. My result was a stilted study of colour and tone about a corner of a building. As I said earlier, I loved the freedom of finding this information and continued on with plein-air painting.
There was so much to learn to start with and not a lot of help out there way back then. I'm talking pre FaceBook and YouTube days. Plein-air painting was not popular. It was something that a few did. I learnt form other artists and from reading and doing. Now days we have a huge selection of helpful articles, videos and blogs to show and tell us what we need to know.
Why do you paint 'en plein-air'? And if you don't, it is time to try it out.
There is an article in Australia Artist Magazine this month (August 2019) which I wrote as a guide to getting outside to paint. There are lots of tips and tricks included in this article, all to do with plein-air painting. I wrote it for pastellists but it can be generalised to be applicable to all media. This article talks about what equipment to take out with you and how to start a painting.
Why paint plein-air? Not for any other reason than it will make you a better artist. You will learn to see, to have all your senses involved and bring all this back to the studio then into the works you do. Set yourself up to see what plein-air painting is all about, 'see what happens if...' my fav saying.
Let's talk more about this in future blogs.
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