Saturday, 26 July 2014

Is this "en Plein Air"?

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....


The final painting I did on location is again unfinished, done at Red Wharf Bay of some lovely little houses and a boat... problem was the tide went out before I managed to get to the boat and  lost the reflections as it ended up on the beach!! Again a bit overworked in the foliage department but so much learned!!!

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!

I wanted to create a more complete representation of the same scene above including the foliage (aarrrgghhhh) and I might even do the same painting again but use a different colour scheme as am feeling this is a bit cool and some warmer tones might be needed.

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!!

17 comments:

  1. I have never painted outside, so I am not qualified to comment on your question really. However, to me, it is the end product that is the most important thing. The painting outside is just for the wonderful experience and fresh air !

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    1. I agree Brenda, though am sure some wouldn't!! Anyway I do think it has got me going and I will be doing more in the future... if I ever want to run painting holidays I need to get to grips with stumbling upon a possible subject and being able to paint i!!

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  2. My favourite is the dovecote. Lovely!
    I know what you mean about finding plain air painting somewhat challenging. Its one of the things I am tackling this year - very slowly so far. :-)

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    1. Me too Vandy but I did give myself the challenge of doing some plein air this year and I did a bit on holiday but hardly any subject matter then spoiled for choice in Anglesey... I did feel like I was getting more of a handle on it so keen to have another go now!!

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  3. Well as far as I'm concerned 'en plein air' translates as 'in the open air' which you were so yes it qualifies for me! So glad you had such a great time and sorry I didn't get to come in the end :-(

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    1. Yes it would have been lovely to see you Sharon but am sure we will be there again next year and we may well arrange something before that anyway... am liking your take on the plein air issue!!

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  4. I know some people who would say, no it doesn't count, you were using a photo for reference…. but I know other that would say yes it counts. A workshop I attended re Plein Aire painting suggested a quick value study with only Paynes Grey or Ivory black on the brush to establish the shadows, reflections etc… he then used his value study when it came time to paint the shadows, even though they were completely different then. I love your paintings I think you did great, wish I could have been in the car with you and Polly :-)

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  5. You're right you would have loved the car journey Elaine.... Polly is one very funny lady!! Joanne often does monochrome sketches as well to work from in her studio though to call them sketches doesn't really do them justice as they are wonderful paintings in their own right. I think I may do some of those as well in the future...the experience has given me lots to think about and I am delighted you like the paintings...am itching to do more now!!

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  6. You really did some lovely paintings for your first proper plein air holiday, and the rules are there are no rules, so if you want to call this last painting (a little cracker by the way) en plein air, just stick your tongue in your cheek and you can say it is! We certainly did have a wonderful few days with like minded people and I must say, the company on the journey was great fun, the journey just flew. Good driver by the way.

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    1. Aw thanks Polly...tongue in cheek it is then!!!

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  7. Yep - I agree totally with Sharon - you were outside so it counts.

    Your buildings hold a magical, fairytale quality for me. Just lovely.

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    1. Thanks Carmen, as you can see fro the reference photos I had a fantastic subject to work from....the chateau does look like a fairtytale castle, we were very privileged to have had permission to paint there!!

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  8. I too need to do some plain air painting. I think it's a good exercise in composition amongst other things. You did a splendid job with your plain air experience Judith.

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    1. I so agree about the composition aspect Jean, very good practice for that!! It has certainly inspired me to get out more!!

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  9. darn those auto corrects. Didn't notice they had changed plein to plain.

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