So it’s taken a TV appearance and a whole heap of thinking to realise how very different plein air painting is from studio painting. I am amazed at how much of it I took for granted but it has been one serious lesson and one I appreciate tremendously.
Of course I entered the Big Painting Challenge to win it… who didn’t? With it I had imaginings of laurels and visions of an ever expanding career as a very fine professional artist, my boat having finally landed!
Instead I found myself embarking on a voyage of self discovery. I am still travelling this road and am thoroughly enjoying the process.
This weekend past, I joined up with my fellow contestant and now great pal Anthea Lay along with a group of like minded artists on the Norfolk Broads for A Brush With The Broads, 4 days of ‘plein air’ painting bliss. This is becoming an annual habit and Anthea and I are ready to book our places for next year.
I didn’t realise when I applied to the program how very little I remembered if any about painting outdoors from my student days. Yes we were encouraged to paint outside and yes we went out on field trips and all that but mostly we stayed in our studios and as we developed we discovered the joys of photographic technology and painting became something of a breeze because unwittingly we were becoming adept at copying photographs and learning less about observation. Now this might not be important to some artists who have very specific and distinctive styles but it does help to make you a wholly rounded artist especially if you want to take part in TV programs that require that level of experience.
My outdoor technique is improving and I am pleased with the results. The light outdoors is extremely different from the light indoors and my eyes are learning to adjust. My paintings aren’t as chalky as when I first begun and for a start my canvases are now a lot smaller than my studio ones so I can complete a painting in two hours max before the light changes altogether.I am also learning to be more observant and these days I sketch whenever I can. I always carry a sketch book, pens, markers and a compact travel water colour set. I am not planning to give up studio painting in favour of plein air painting but I do want to train myself to be less reliant on photography by letting my eyes do the bulk of the camera work. I know there aren’t any rules and the art police aren’t going to come and arrest me for using photographs but I see a certain freshness in my outdoor paintings which I’d like to transfer into some of my studio painting and in a sense travel towards a happy medium from both ends of that particular spectrum.
Currently on my easel is a studio version of Fairhaven Watergardens inspired by the outdoor sketch (for this is what I call them now). More about this in my next blog.
I am sure many artists will agree we are happiest when we are learning and that is why we spend so much time together. For me it all really started when I set off to win a competition and discovered I had won so much more.