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Plein Air

by | Sep 18, 2015 | The Practice of Art | 0 comments

I am asked constantly if I paint on location, or plein air, as it is often called. “Um, no…” is often my answer, and for some reason I feel completely guilty about it. Maybe it started when I first heard someone say that they can tell the difference in work that was painted from a photo or painted from life. But, whatever it is, I immediately launch into excuse mode, “I can’t do that because I have young kids,” or “I spend a lot of time at the site, before I go back to the studio.” PleinAir

Recently I had caught onto my behavior and decided “enough is enough!” And I signed up for a plein air event. I have had so much fun! Well, the first two days. On the third day, today, I had to paint at a farm, which is good for traditional plein air painters, but for my style it didn’t quite jive. I was describing my trouble to my husband, that many plein air art is subtle in color and deals with atmospheric perspective, and slight changes of color and shape, sweeping vistas, or calm scenes and my work is more like Emerill Lagasse shouting “Bam!”

But yesterday I was at a beautiful location that just spoke to me in a thousand ways. I did my first “real” plein air painting. I spent six hours on location. I dealt with the color changes as the hours passed, clouds and rain rolled in and out. Rocks got wet, dried out, got wet again. I was unprepared for rain, and fashioned myself a little “painting fort” by wedging a blank canvas in above mine and draping a piece of cloth I found stuffed in the bottom of my backpack. Finally I was saved when a nice man named Norm lent me his umbrella when he left for the day. painting fort

I can see the benefit, and the addiction, of plein air. It was great to create onsite. It was wonderful to spend six hours looking at something. Have you done that before? Do you know how much more you see? But, I have to stay true to what moves me to get a painting I like. Painting along a river, yes please. Painting at a farm, not for me.