Monday, December 19, 2011

Plein Air Painting

White Fence, the glory of plein air painting
Last Friday, after a few weeks away from it, I went painting with my Friday Plein Air group in Descanso Gardens. We knew it was open but hadn't heard if the gardens were damaged very much from the windstorm several weeks before. Things seemed pretty normal. Here and there a branch was missing but otherwise they managed to come through the storm in good shape.

As beautiful as the day was however, we were under another strong wind alert and it was cool and blustery at times. No one wanted to venture very far into the park and within a short distance from the entrance all of us found places to paint. In fact, I have a few natural grains of dirt and leaves embedded in my painting. Luckily this is one of the first scenes you see!

There were five of us and at the end of our three hour session we usually meet and compare, suggest and check out what the others have done. Its amazing just how different our paintings are! Four of us were literally within sight of each other and had painted totally different scenes. I am always amazed at this. Or the fact that we could ALL paint the same scene and how different it turns out.

I found an old fence, some interesting trees and a few early camellias in a setting that seemed to beg for an audience. I took my cheapie canvas board, dosed the thing with layers of sap green and roughly tried to create an outline of the darker areas. Unusual for me was using oil. I have become fond of under painting in acrylic with a strong, contrasting color and then letting that color peek through the oils. I don't like the contamination of the underpainting with the oils and that has been a wonderful solution. This time however, it seemed to be working. I could put the fence and tree trucks over the background in thick strokes that easily covered up the green oil paint.

The one thing about painting outdoors is that your eye sees differently. You instinctively place objects and colors that you want to see that often have no relationship to what is there.

One of the group used a strong burgundy red background and painted an arbor like fence with only a few leaves left. She dappled the ground and background with colors that were not there and yet and it all worked!  I was being pretty true to colors I was seeing but realized I liked her use of additional colors, colors that may not have been there but added a zest, a personal vision of what she saw.

I always take photos of the scene I paint and when I opened those photos up on my computer, was amazed at what the camera saw and what I had seen. I encourage everyone to move outdoors and paint. It brings a clarity of vision that no photo can truly capture.

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