Plein Air Painting - Part 1 of 2
by Patricia Banks
Published in Island Arts Magazine - Spring 2015
Wrestling with the wind, rain, heat, cold, changing light, not to mention bugs! etc., while trying to capture that awe inspiring moment in an outdoor painting, can indeed be frustrating! As Lori McNee, Idaho artist says: "Learning to be comfortable en plein air is a process and there is no reason why you should nail your set-up the very first time." All it takes then, is a little preparation and a few trial runs to be able to pack the lightest and most efficient painting set up so that you have everything you need and most of what you want. "The trick is to find the right materials for you as an individual artist," Sharon Weilbaecher notes. It has taken me a while to refine my plein air painting gear which includes a nap sack of supplies, an easel and a fold up chair. So why would I leave the convenience and comfort of my studio to brave the unpredictable forces of nature?
In my endeavours to grow as an artist and improve my paintings, I painted all the time, took workshops, talked with other artists, watched videos, read books, visited art galleries and art museums, and did all manner of things I thought would help. But after a lifetime of working with people as a Registered Nurse, I found I didn't like the isolated existence which seemed to be a requirement of a full time painter. For inspiration, I spent a lot of time travelling, hiking, quickly sketching, and taking hundreds of photographs of the spectacular scenery that I planned to paint. On these outings, I would stand still and absorb the untamed energy of the places I visited. Then, I couldn't wait to get back to my studio to start my next masterpiece. In the studio, I would recall the images, with the help of my reference photos, and envision myself back in the setting. Sometimes this worked very well and I was pleased with my painting, but often it fell short. What was missing?
"Outdoor painting is a sport. Get the right equipment." I agree with Bryan Mark Taylor. What a great excuse to get outside and play with like minded folks! Make sure you are physically prepared for your painting trip and be realistic about the time you have, and the time you actually need, to do a plein air painting. Plein air painting is fun, especially if you focus on the overall experience and the process of painting rather than on achieving a finished, saleable masterpiece. Oh no! ... I've run out of room to give you my great tips on what to pack and techniques for success as you get started ... Stay tuned for Plein Air Painting - Part 2 in Island Arts summer issue. It will be out just in time to prepare for your plein air painting adventures!