Posts Tagged ‘plein air’

Painting in a cave

June 24, 2015

Painting in a cave!!??!!

You just never know where a plein air painter may turn up; one of the local parks, a sidewalk on Main Street, parked along a back road, or even In a cow pasture …….but in a cave???  Yep, they’ve even been known to turn up in a cave too!

I, along with some of my fellow plein air painters, recently had an awesome opportunity to set up and paint in a cave, Onondaga Cave to be exact.  This location was listed on our schedule to paint during the recent Steelville Plein Air Event.  When I noticed the location on the list, I just assumed it meant that we would be painting around the Onondaga Cave State Park grounds.  That was, until I received an email from the event organizers asking for confirmation of how many painters wanted to paint inside the cave.  “Wait, what??  We’re going to be allowed to paint inside the cave???  Count me in!  How many times will you be allowed to paint in a cave??!!? “   I like to think of myself as more of an adventurous plein air painter.  I like to get off the beaten path, so, this was definitely a must!

There was a brief list of rules, one of the most important being necessary steps to protect the cave by not touching any of the formations, putting a drop cloth under our equipment and not spilling any fluids or paint while in there.  Pack out everything you packed in (standard trail ethics).  Dress in layers because the “cave weather” would be cold and damp.  Try to leave room or step out of the way when tours or other visitors came through.  And finally, make sure we were escorted in and accounted for throughout the day.

This cave is a state run/commercial cave so, there were certain amenities such as; stairs and walkways to set up on, limited lighting, and guides to help out if needed.  With that said, it was still a plein air adventure!  The limited lighting was primarily on some of the cave features themselves and along parts of the walkway so, it was up to the painters to figure out how to see their palette and surface well enough to actually paint something.  In some parts of the cave, painters were occasionally dripped on or even experienced “full-on” rain throughout the day as ground water seeped in.  Everything ended up with varying degrees of dampness and depending on your medium…..it potentially wreaked havoc on your finished painting.  There were also the temperatures to deal with.  Since I am a painter that prefers the cold temps over the heat any day, I thought the cave temperatures were fantastic painting temps., especially since it was very hot and humid above ground.  However, I will admit, towards the end of my last painting, I did notice that I could see my own breathe and it was only after I started the hike out of the cave that I realized my nose was rather cold.  Lastly, the backpacking…..everything had to be packed in and depending on the location you chose, it was an uphill hike.

No worries, by the time I reached the spot in the cave that “spoke” to me, I paused and caught my breath, unpacked and set up…..I thought to myself again, “How lucky I am to get this opportunity.  The time, out-of breath, the dampness, it is all worth it!”  I immediately got to work and painted all day, only stopping once for a quick break.  I painted three paintings; one 11”x14”, one 8”x10”, and one 6”x8” because I had decided I was going to make the most of this opportunity and paint as long as they allowed us to be there.

My paintings aren’t necessarily masterpieces but, how often do you get a painting that was painted entirely on location, underground, in a cave?!?  It was such a peaceful experience, almost meditative that each time I look at one of my paintings; I’m taken back to that peace.  Just the soft light of the cave’s  limited cave lighting, my book lights illuminating my easel, the focus of applying paint onto canvas, and the soft drips of new cave formations in the making….just enough to break the silence……total painting zen.

Another fellow painter/friend wrote a fantastic article; “Plein Air Goes Underground”, on the experience of painting in the cave and interviewed several of the other artists.  I suggest you give it a read…..she is a bit of a better writer than yours truly…..you’ll be glad you checked it out!  Here’s the link:  http://www.marciawillman.com/

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For the love of the “fight”

June 4, 2015

“Rain, falling snow, wind…all of these things to contend with only make the open air painter love the fight”  ~Walter Elmer Schofield

 

 

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We are in, what I would consider some of the most prime plein air weather here.  Temperatures have been mild and absolutely beautiful.  We have some beautiful color created by flowers and trees blooming and then the grass and leaves have gone from drab to green almost overnight.  Birds and peep frogs serenade you as you paint and the wildlife can sometimes appear out of nowhere to keep you company.  Yes, you can paint outside any time of the year or day—just that you quickly learn there are certain times of the season and even certain times of the day that are more pleasant and appealing.

I’ve read blog posts and articles about several of the die-hard plein air painters and the more adventuresome painters.  There are those painters that have trekked up mountains and roughed it, just to catch a backcountry scene in the morning light.  Those painters that have toughed it out in extreme temperatures on both ends of the thermometer, braved the snow, sleet, rain, and wind, not only for the painting being produced but for the thrill and adventure of it.  I love reading these stories—some of these artists are not only talented painters but entertaining writers as well.  If you’d like to read some of these posts and see the art created from these adventures, I suggest you check out the work of Josh Been http://www.joshuabeen.com/ , R. Gregory Summers http://rgregorysummers.com/ , or Shawn Cornell http://mshawncornellstudio.com/  and hey, for kicks and grins, check out my adventure page…it’s not all about painting but my wanderings too https://veronicabrownart.wordpress.com/category/adventures/

As I read about some of these artist adventures, I wondered what would drive someone to paint in the less than ideal conditions.  Painting en plein air can be challenging enough.  I’m somewhat of an adventuresome type but wasn’t sure if I loved the “fight” as Mr. Schofield mentioned, enough to actually try to paint during the wind, snow, rain, or sleet.  Then I tried it.  The first time, I painted in the wind and my clunky French easel blew over and cracked “…..awesome…..just awesome”, I thought.  That easel and I had a love/hate relationship.  It used to randomly collapse one or more of it’s legs on me while painting….but that’s a different “fight”.  I tell you this, I didn’t give up.  I started taking a few workshops in an attempt to improve my plein air skill.  These workshops are scheduled and they happen, rain or shine.  Well, at another workshop, I ended up painting in a rainy mist….ok, not so bad….it was light and I don’t melt.  My hair likes to curl and frizz, but hey, just avoid any mirrors or the public en mass and it’s all good.  Then I braved the winds of the Kansas Flint hills….again, not so bad because I weighted my easel down.  Oh, and did I mention, I finally saved up and sprung for an Easy L easel and tripod.  World of difference!!!  I could adjust the tripod legs to lower the center of gravity and then hang things from the middle of the tripod to weight it down.  OK, I conquered the wind.  Next, I set up and painted during one of our snows this past winter.  I wanted to study the color and values of snow.  I got snow alright.  Half way through my first painting, I started getting snowed on….”eh, no big deal, it was actually pretty and peaceful”.  Next up, it changed to sleet, “great….who ordered this???”  It ended in a very cold, wet, rain……..OK, I’m done with this painting….and packed it up.  I have painted in a mild weather rain as well and produced a couple of my favorite plein air paintings.  I’ve learned that the key is get paint on the canvas and learn to deal with slick, oily paint.  Next up…..hiking more than a couple of miles to paint…..  I hope to conquer that this fall!

OK, I get it, I see what some of the “fight” is all about.  It’s another challenge to add to the mix.  It separates some painters from others.  It is a learning and growing experience that can have the potential for rewards (and some fails), both in the finished painting and in the satisfaction of winning a “fight”.  I get it and I’m in!  Let’s do this!

Lose yourself

June 1, 2015
Shaw Pond

Shaw Pond

Pinetum Lake

Pinetum Lake

“Art washes away from the soul, the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

Amen, Pablo—no truer words can be said.

For the artist, the creation of art can be therapeutic, a chance to shake off the day to day grind, the baggage of a fast-paced world with information overload.  The creation of art can give the artist a chance to breathe, a chance to get out and rehabilitate our senses.  I can feel so exhausted after a day of painting and completely refreshed all at the same time.

For the artist and art appreciator alike, art can stir emotion.  Art can take us to another place, time, or memory.  It can make us feel the soft summer breezes, the warmth of the sun, the cold of a snowflake, the chill of a fresh rain, smell the aroma of newly blooming wildflowers, or remember a place or person special to us.  Art can make us lose ourselves, even if just for a moment.

Take some time to lose yourself in some art—trust me!  You don’t have to go to a museum or “artsy fartsy” (as my fam describes it) gallery to lose yourself.  This is THE season for plein air in this area, get out there and watch art as a spectator sport.  Watch as an artist creates their own spin on a scene right before you.  If you can’t attend and watch, go to the show afterwards and see the finished pieces and meet the artist who created it.  Hear some of the stories of the process.  See if you can spot those paintings created during the prime mosquito and gnat hours or those that may have had a mishap and kissed the ground a time or two during creation.  Attend a local fine art/craft demo at some of the historical re-enactment events or grab some great food to munch on while browsing an outdoor art fair.

If public gatherings are not your “thing”—there are great online sites that post all levels of artwork on a daily basis.  Check out www.dailypaintworks.com  –while you’re there….look me up!

Now, get out there and lose yourself—either as an artist or appreciator!

Painting snow, en plein air

March 21, 2015

Plein air painting, is a term used to describe a painting done outside/on location rather than in a studio. The term comes from the French en plein air, meaning ‘in the open air’.

So, I’ve dabbled with plein air painting on and off for the past few years.  It wasn’t until recently, probably within the last two years, that I started painting en plein air on a regular basis and making more of a “serious” effort towards being a better plein air painter.

The benefits of painting en plein air, finally seeped through that hard head of mine.  I’m seeing how this is all intertwined and helping to make me a better painter in general.  The benefits of being there, feeling the elements, seeing the color, seeing the way light plays on everything, seeing the form and making quick decisions on drawing, studying value, color, and composition…..I get it….these are all necessities for a good painter.  Painting en plein air forces you to make decisions and go with them.  I feel like it makes you really study your subject…..really open your eyes and see.  Because of that, I notice that I pay a lot more attention to subtle color changes and how colors relate to each other.  I started paying more attention to colors in shadow and reflected color.  I have noticed that I have started finding myself looking at things during my daily wanderings and thinking to myself, “how I would mix that particular color?”.  Hmmm, wonder if other artists find themselves doing that?  I’m sure they do….yeah, that has to be a creative brain thing…….  ummm, right?

Oh, and hey, by the way, snow is really all white, right?  I finally had a chance to get outdoors and paint snow en plein air.  Unfortunately, every chance I got to get out and paint it, it was on an overcast day and while the fluffy stuff was still falling.  I tell you this because that day, snow definitely wasn’t just white.  I found grey and blue and in some cases purples in the snow (we won’t talk about the brown and yellow snow that I found in horse pen).  I also found that laying straight titanium white down just didn’t get that “snow” look that I was looking for.  I always mixed in one of the above colors or lemon yellow…..yes, a yellow.  I found by doing this, I was able to get more of the true look I was seeing in front of me.  I found that I was able to give more form to my snow.  After all, it did have shadow, mid-tones, and highlights (not much since it was overcast) but, it had “shape”.  This “shape” makes it more believable.  For example, I had to make it look like “a blanket” on top of the haybales and “pillows” on top of the old parts tractor.  I probably wouldn’t have noticed all of this had I not set up and painted with my subject in front of me.

So, getting out in the cold, braving the snow, wind, and sleet…..so worth the knowledge.  I will admit, I truly didn’t feel the cold while I was painting except when I started to notice certain colors “froze” quicker than others.  My white was a very, thick, gooey mess by the time I was done.  As I get out and paint in the elements, I’m also learning what types of clothing and supplies are a must and what I can leave at home (remind me to tell you about my alpaca socks….they rock!).  I’m also learning how to lighten my painting pack.  …..watch for future posts on that.

I have a long way to go with this “plein air thing” but I feel like if I learn one thing from each painting or each outing, I’m winning!  Some days I learn I should wipe off the painting and just pack it up for another day but hey, it’s all good.  No worries!

Here are three of the paintings that I did during our snow this year.  I think you can really see the gray and blue in the snow on the “Parts Tractor” painting.  The other two paintings look as though I used straight white but there is a subtle yellow and grey in them.  I think they just look true white because of the colors around them.  It’s all relative, right?  I feel like the form of the snow puffs is more believable in the tractor painting.