Monday, July 28, 2014

Time for Plein Air....

Two paintings of William's Lake, Kingston/Rosendale area of NY.

 Watercolor sketch at Montgomery Place, Red Hook, NY

Late afternoon on a hot and hazy day at Olana, Hudson NY

In between work, classes, storms and steamy weather, I have managed to get out and do a few paintings "en plein air", which is a fancy french word for "painting outside".  

Plein air painting became popular during the Impressionist movement. With the invention of the paint tube, artists now had a method to carry their paints with them out of the studio into the open air.  Since impressionism was about the observation and notation of light/color, painting outside was the perfect way to paint the effects of light on the landscape. 

Monet painted the same subject matter and different times of the day and during various times of the year, the Cathedral at Rouen, haystacks, waterlillies, and more. 

I have been a studio painter for most of the past 10 years that I have been using oils, working from photographs I have taken on my journeys.  I have done many watercolor/ink sketches plein air, as it all packs very neatly in my backpack   This year I decided to explore plein air painting with my students and on my own as I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

It is difficult as you have to have the correct set-up, and either be able to park nearby the painting site, or have a cart or strong arms to carry the equipment to the vista you are going to paint.  I work with what I have as new equipment just for painting outside is not in the budget.  Having done it a half a dozen times this summer, I have managed to narrow it down to bringing the following:
  • a 12 x 16" plastic sealable palette box with a disposable palette inside that I bungee cord to:
  • a wooden paintbox with a handle that functions as an easel and stores my paint/brushes/rags
  • a small folding light-weight camping table
  • a camping stool. 

I have bungee corded them to a luggage cart , or else I have carried them short distances. I have not hiked up any mountains, or done any long distance walking, because let's face it, I'm not into carrying a ton of stuff far distances. 

This summer I have plopped myself down in the shade of the cool woods by a lake, or at Olana where I did not have to walk terribly far to get a view of the Hudson River from the top of a hill.  What I have noticed is that by painting plein air, I have a sense of place that my photo paintings don't capture. I cannot use my wax method, in which I work in you have to capture a majority of the painting using a thicker paint in one layer of paint. I still end up taking back to the studio to touch up some areas, or do another layer of paint in some sections, but the paintings have a more fresh direct look.  

I am hooked...and will take my oils to the Cape this summer vacation. I am going to Barcelona in the fall, and though I would love to take my oils, it may be too complicated or expensive to pack/ship. I have been asked to give a class in Barcelona...the details not yet figured out. Stay tune for more info.

Open studio tour at my 18 Garden Street, Rhinebeck, NY studio is August 30 and 31st from 11-5. 
It will be a celebration all weekend of my being in business 8 months. If you are in the area, stop by and see what's been going on!  Paintings/sketches from 25- and up. Plenty of affordable art, handmade greeting cards, journals and more!