Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Painting en plein air

Painting outdoors on location is always an interesting experience. First there is all the stuff that has to come along: paints, medium, brushes, palette knife, easel, canvas, view finder, paper towels, bug spray, visor, water and peanut butter and jelly sandwich are absolutely necessary. Then maybe: pliers (or matches) to open the stuck paint tubes, a chair, a camera, a sketchbook, drawing supplies--it quickly begins to feel like packing for the wagon train to Wyoming....

Still, there's nothing like it. Today on Locust Creek was just beautiful--clear and cool after way too much rain these last several weeks. Sandy and I set up near the bank, the loudly rushing water nearly making conversation impossible.

Toward the end of the session I took a reference photo as always, in case I want to go back in to the painting later or enlarge it into a studio painting. Below is what the creek looked like to the camera late this morning....

It's always a daunting task to choose where to begin and end a composition outdoors and, as usual, I bit off more than I could easily chew. But that's the challenge of working outside! The light changes constantly and you know you only have a couple of hours to work. It's much more exciting than painting from photographs.

While painting, several folks came by. A disappointed woman was first--nothing on the canvas yet! Next, two white bearded men in a red pickup truck came and went twice giving approval to the work each way. A woman stopped to share "how pretty" the painting was. A mom and her baby and dog stopped to chat a bit. Two carloads of "In the Woods Camp" kids arrived to enjoy the swimming hole and share their opinions of the work going on.

And after a morning's work, this is the result. It's loose and free and perhaps, unfinished, and I am happy. Plein air painting is all about the process for me. The finished result is important but less so than the experience of struggling to make sense of the values and colors, what to include and what to leave out and when to say "I'm finished for now".

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