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PLEIN AIR PAINTING

I have always enjoyed the spontaneity of painting direct from nature. There is an immediacy and fluid reaction to the subject that can not be achieved in the studio, and in the process the painting takes on a life of its own.

If it is a good day the sun will be shining but not too hot. I will be outside in the shade standing at my easel in front of an interesting subject, warm and comfortable. I will be away from prying eyes, have a full flask of coffee and the whole day ahead of me. But, it is rarely like this. I have been so cold the water on the paper has frozen to a sheet of ice and so hot my tee-shirt looked as though I had been in a swimming pool. I have stood for hours in awkward positions and given myself back strain, have been hit on the head several times by a board which has been lifted off the easel by a sudden gust of wind, and on two occasions was almost cut off by the tide! Constant interruptions have to be dealt with in good spirits and the weather usually plays havoc with the best laid plans.

On the plus side I have been privileged to be in situations few people have an opportunity to experience, and have met some fascinating individuals. Painting has opened doors and given me access to places not normally allowed for the general public, and I have been fortunate to spend a large part of my life doing what I want to do in beautiful places. Wherever I go in the world people love to watch an artist at work and the skill we all had as children, but which few of us retain into adult life, becomes a common bond and a common language.

A FEW LESSONS I HAVE LEARNED
Take time to assess the subject, spend a little time just looking. Decide what it is you like about it and commit that to memory because it is going to change during the time of the painting so you will want to retain that initial feeling.
Check position of the sun and which way it is going to travel. Establish the direction of the light for the painting and stick with it.
In a hot climate have a hat, sun cream, insect repellent, and plenty of liquid. Even a mild day can be dangerous if exposed for several hours. Get in the shade if possible.

Check tides if near the coast not just from a security point of view but also the subject will change.
Make yourself comfortable from the start. Decide if it is a morning or afternoon subject.
Beware of intense light as there is a tendency to over compensate with the colour and make things too dark. Lift the painting off the easel from time to time and put it in the shade to check and give your eyes time to adjust.
If you are planning to paint on private property, check with owner first. Most people are very cooperative when it comes to artists. Respect other people’s property.
Bear in mind you will be in one place for several hours. Take a mobile phone for security and if you feel vulnerable being on you own for a long period of time (especially if you are in a remote area) consider going with a friend or painting group.


Paintings: Top. High Summer 38 x 46cm oil on canvas. 11. 7. 09
Bottom. The Harbour, Dunmore East. 33 x46cm oil on canvas.
Both paintings produced on location
Post published by Tom King 12 July 2009

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