June 12, 2015

The Power of Plein Air

Summer Storm, oil on panel 8X10"

I AM AMAZED at just how much satisfaction I am getting from painting the landscape en plein air.

I still remember my earliest forays into the field over a decade ago.  I had all the wrong gear, which I discovered during my very first plein air attempt - in fact, bumbling with your gear is a rite of passage for all that would dare wander into the great outdoors with their paints in hand.     I was working in changeable mountain weather, and change it did.   My angst was palpable, and I thought "This is too hard.  Why would anyone want to do this on a regular basis?"

Failure rate was at about 60% I figure.

It took a while for me to figure out the gear, and develop a process for dealing with all of the trials and tribulations of painting in the field.

These days, hundreds of plein air sketches later, I feel like a ninja warrior as I set out my brushes.  I sit on a short stool when I paint in the field,  and once I sit, my pochade box in front of me, brushes to the right, paint squeezed out and blank canvas before me,  I get the sense of being a pilot in a cockpit.  It feels full of adventure and possibility.  Anything could happen.  I could turn out a gem, our I could get skunked if conditions change too rapidly.    And either way it's okay, because being in the moment, being in process, and becoming a humble student of all that is before me is enough.  

Painting in the field has really improved my game - not just in the realm of doing field sketches, but  stretching me in every good way as a painter.  I have learned to make better design decisions, and learned to make them quickly.  I have become a much more focused observer, and I see more quickly and accurately in terms of color, value and proportion.  

Painting from life in any genre is the very best way to learn, I am convinced.  I have experienced it first hand both in my own painting practice and with the students I have worked with over the last 20 years.  It trains the eye and hones the skills.  Plein air in particular adds a time pressure that develops the kind of concentration required to paint well, and is an art unto itself.  On top of all that is the experience of fresh air, sunshine, birdsong and breezes.  Inhabiting your subject matter can and often does make for more compelling art as your connection with your subject matter is totally immersive.

I will be teaching plein air a few time throughout the summer;  my first workshop of the season being in Lumby area, four days on a beautiful ranch overlooking the Monashees.  For information on that workshop, CLICK HERE.  It includes the extra bonus of a FREE FIELD SKETCH for each participant.  It's a one time offer, so take me up on it!  Registration closes soon, so don't waste any time.

So, get off your computer, pack up your gear and get out there.  And may the Force be with you.

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