I have just returned from a fabulous time in Anglesey with a super group of painters from the North West. Joanne Boon Thomas organises this trip each year for 2 groups of painters one stay the first half of the week, the others the second half and we have all been blessed with the most amazing weather...the hotel was super with fabulous food (always a plus!!) very warm and welcoming.
Joanne invited me as she keeps telling me I need to get out and do some painting en plein air!!! I know she's right but I guess I have avoided it so far. I did go on a painting holiday to Umbria in 2006 and had a wonderful time and although my paintings left a lot to be desired I was voted best improver of the week so I was happy!! I haven't really done much plein air since I but do know it is another string I need to my bow.
So armed with my easel, a small traveling palette, collapsible water jug and equipment pared to the very bone (going against everything I hold dear!!) I set off first of all to pick up my pal Polly Birchall whom I had met once before on a workshop with Joanne. We had a good journey into NorthWales and then onto the island and no we didn't get lost once!!! Who said women can't navigate!! We chatted and pontificated none stop for the whole journey, setting the art world to right and our 2 hour journey passed in no time.
We arrived at the small town of Moelfre where most of the group were already settled and well on their way with their first efforts. I set up to paint what I realised was a difficult subject, not the house I was painting but all the rocks below... not a good idea, and certainly an even worse idea to attempt it again to try and improve!!
We met for drinkies back at the hotel, changed for dinner and then went on to enjoy our first fabulous meal. Early night for most and then off the following day to the wonderful Chateau Rhianfa. The group had been for the first time last year and must have behaved themselves as we were able to go again this year.. what a place!!! A painter's dream... so much inspiration, am now looking at deals to go and stay!!
The following day we visited Red Wharf Bay and painted there for the morning and after devouring our packed lunches Polly and I set off home. Before I go on to display the paintings and explain the reason for the title of this blog, I would like to take the opportunity to thank Joanne for organising what was a lovely trip and for getting me doing the dreaded "plein air!!"
This was a little Dovecote building in the grounds of the Chateau, hidden amongst the trees. I tried to capture the lights and shadows which were falling on the building and was actually quite pleased with how this turned out... I maybe overworked it a touch but next time would go in with the deep tones sooner so that I avoided too many layers
The next painting was of the Chateau and what I had in mind was to capture the light rather than all the detail on the turret or all the foliage for that matter. I went in wet in wet, no drawing and avoided the side of the turret to the left which was bathed in light. I then added a bit of detail to the stonework, a touch of shadow and though the piece may not be finished (it might need some rich dark foliage lower down on the left of the turret), I do like the light....
Artistic license used in this to add the boat and include less foliage!!
And finally to my question!!
What I would like to know is.... if I painted the following painting in my garden this afternoon, having taken the original photo and already done a version once above, does it count as plein air?Am really hoping so!!! I think for the "purists" amongst you I would need to have done the whole painting in front of the actual subject but for those who may be a bit more liberal, the experience of fighting the elements (in this case, glorious baking sunshine) with a photo stuck to the side of my easel may just count!
So what have I learned....
Well first, to make sure if the tide is going out get the boat done first so that the reflectons are captured!!
Second, decisions en plein air need to be made quickly and it therefore helps to have a sort of template or formula for how to paint something, ie stonework, beach, sea, foliage, there are too many other things to be thinking about without wondering how to paint something in the first place... the rocks in my first efforts are a good point in question.
Third, you don't need to include everything... I think I am actually ok at that bit... anything which looks remotely tricky... leave it out, that's my motto!!! Vignettes are good for plein air (like the little Summer House) you just need to make sure you get the composition looking ok at the edges. So, not a uniform unbroken circle around your subject, more random and uneven.
Am sure I will have learned lots more but for now these are the areas I will be working on, I am on the edge of the Pennines, the start of the moors in Lancashire and we have Rivington Country Park on our doorstep... an area full of old stone buildings, doors, reservoirs, derelict barns so there really is no excuse and I am hoping I have developed a few more skills to encourage me to get out there and give it a go!!