The good, bad and ugly of plein air

At the end of August I went away on a plein air painting weekend!  It was a wonderful opportunity to be out in nature painting and learning something new and quite honestly we needed a weekend away and if I had not committed to this I guess we would have just sat around at home…hubby and I have not had a weekend like this in a long time. So as that famous idiom goes – with one stone we kind of hit three or four birds. It was a bonus!

I have been on an art retreat before, and painted outside, but our studio was set up and we spent a couple of hours outside looking for the ‘painting’ in the scenery and started outside but then it was completed in the studio again.

So this weekend was a completely different experience, that’s why I call this the good, bad and ugly. 

I really enjoyed it. It was humbling, and scary.  I felt both overwhelmed and stressed at the same time.  Just as the breeze changed or the sun started feeling warmer I felt uncomfortable and quite happy and excited all at once.

On the first day after the morning session I went to the room happy with my progress and surprised with what I had painted.

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It’s lovely to be outside and I imagine myself painting in this peaceful place and creating something really beautiful….but at the same time there were bees and the sun started burning into my back and I was wishing I was back in art class.

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The afternoon when we finished I felt just as happy with my painting and equally surprised with what I had accomplished that day.  But I didn’t quite enjoy that experience as much as the morning one. Finding the ‘painting’ in the scenery in front me was a lot harder in the afternoon.

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Painting outside sharpens your memory, I learnt more about really seeing what was in front of me, about natural light and shadows and the real colour of things in the scenery. 

Painting in art class from a photo and with controlled light is a bit like painting in 2D, being outside is more like 3D. I was forced to see real life and real colours. Also the photos are as good as the printer or the ink in the machine so the colours are not always exactly the same as what is outside.

I felt like a part of the scenery.  Although you can’t touch the scenery (well I could actually touch everything in mine if I wanted to) being outside made me feel more connected with my art and with nature.  With the breeze and the sunshine its a romantic scene in my artistic mind. 

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I wonder about Van Gogh…and I remember a book I bought, I don’t think I ever intended reading this book but bought it because it was about Van Gogh.  I searched for it at home, it’s a book of letters that he wrote to his brother.  Looking through his letters I  wanted to find something where he complains about the wind or the sun or the cold or anything. Maybe he never complains and that was why he just created beautiful masterpieces!

But then I found this, and it had me in hysterics – 

The politeness of the populace of the Hague towards painters is, however, demonstrated by the fact that a fellow behind me, or probably at a window, suddenly spat a wad of tobacco onto my paper – life can be very trying at times. _ Letter 262

Loud laughter from me, there I found something he moaned about.  He sounds very funny and I might not read the whole book but I must really make an effort to go through some of his letters.

And what about Monet, did he perhaps complain about painting outside?

Now that I am home with my two finished paintings I feel I don’t like them as much, like they need to be fixed, like something is missing, maybe it’s the magic of being outside that has faded and gone away.

None of my paintings are a masterpiece but I feel the ones I do in the studio are more a masterpiece than these two that were painted outside.

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The actual process of painting outside was too quick due to the changing scene and shadows and time just runs away!  I feel like I should have stayed outside longer and persisted and continued painting, but I know I would not have coped with the heat and longer hours. All those hours painting I tried maybe 3 different brushes but that weekend only one brush worked for me, soft eve series size 1, I’m not even sure how that was possible. 

It was a good learning experience and I really did enjoy it. I will do it again and will paint in oils again or try water-colour, hopefully be more prepared for the challenge next time.  I would like to try this near water, near the ocean it won’t be bees it will be sand flying into the canvas giving it a real 3D effect.  

a huge thank you to Sanchi for teaching me
xoxo

or rather let me sign off the way Vincent used to, which was usually –

With a handshake, Yours sincerely,
Vincent

 

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4 thoughts on “The good, bad and ugly of plein air

  1. It’s a process, it’s a process, it’s a process, it’s a process. There is a beautiful and fragile wild abandon in your last painting. Looks like a successful outing to me

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