Posted on Leave a comment

Completion of Plein Air Paintings in the Studio

Oil painting of Gascoigne Bay looking through the trees and brush

I’ve heard of certain art described as being painted “in the style of plein air”, but that description describes nothing, because plein air is not a style.  Some plein air artists paint in a more abstracted style, and some paint very representationally. Plein air painting, by definition, is painting in open air, on-site. It describes an activity as well as the painting produced during that activity. Plein air artists focus on capturing some aspect of the actual fleeting light. Usually the subject and the artist are at the mercy of the elements and the environment, but there are no rules — if the weather or bugs are nasty, the artist might paint from inside his car.  But very little, if any work, is done in the studio. When invitations are given for plein air works to be formally shown, usually the requirement is that most of the painting have been done outdoors, on site, from life, anywhere from 80% of the painting painting en plein air, to the purist’s position of 100% painted on site.

As for my plein work, occasionally I will correct a shape or add a detail in the studio, but usually my plein air paintings are fully completed outdoors, on site. Like many plein air artists, I have many plein air paintings stacked in my studio that for one reason or another, I consider unfinished, or with which I feel less than satisfied as far as the painting representing my impression of the scene and setting.  Some have compositional problems, because in addition to the value patterns showing the play of light, there are so many design elements to consider – line, shape, size, position, color, texture, and density, as well as the compositional principles of balance, rhythm, and harmony.

So this week when I was chased back indoors by some biting yellow flies, I worked in the studio, making a few corrections to a plein air painting I had produced in a Laurel Daniel workshop this spring. I removed a pesky, distracting “V”, made the greens more yellow and less green, and I added a little more light in the background, and a red boat shape.  The composition is more effective now, and more clearly represents my impression of the morning view, except for the boat of course, which simply adds interest.

2014-0425 Muted Perspective, Unfinished
As initially painted en plein air, the view from Gascoigne Bluff, St. Simons Island, Georgia
Oil painting of Gascoigne Bay looking through the trees and brush
Completed painting of the view from Gascoigne Bluff, St. Simons Island, Georgia

 

Share this:
Posted on Leave a comment

Plein Air with Laurel Daniel – Blocking In

2014-0424 St. Andrews Beach, Jekyll Island
St. Andrews Beach, Jekyll Island

2014-0425 Muted Perspective, Unfinished
Gascoigne Bluff, St. Simons Island, unfinished

2014-0425 Slave Cabins, St. Simons Island
Restored Slave Houses, St. Simons Island, incomplete (Some heavy energy remaining here)

2014-0425 Sunrise Over the Marsh
Nupastel drawing of my marsh view at sunrise

2014-0426 Sea Island Marsh 1
Sea Island Marsh 1

2014-0426 Sea Island Marsh 2
Sea Island Marsh 2, incomplete

Coastal Georgia was a beautiful place to be, last week.  I drove from my home in Northwest Florida to St. Simons Island for a plein air painting working with Laurel Daniel, a fabulous artist whose work I have been watching for years, following her blog even before I ever decided to try plein air painting.  Laurel is a master at ‘definitive suggestion’ in her work, leaving out just enough of the smaller details which invites the viewer to participate.  I am a fan of this kind of work, because the longer the viewer will look at the piece, the more they will appreciate it, and not just see it and walk away.

Photo by Laurel Daniel
Joan Vienot at work (Photo by Laurel Daniel)

DSC04294
Photos of the marsh outside my hotel
DSC04278
DSC04274

Laurel worked hard for us, teaching us to show distance by muting intensity and tapering values to mid-range, but her primary focus was teaching us to block-in the basic shapes and values before getting down to the business of painting.  Each day she demo’d a different way of blocking-in, before painting luscious scenes “From Marsh to Seaside.”  Her three block-in methods include dry brush sketch in a dark neutral; mid-toning with a neutral and then wiping out lighter values and adding darks; and the most difficult, blocking in with true colors at correct value.  Laurel put the dark elements in the painting first, leaving the lighter values for later.   Her reasoning was to get down the shadow patterns first, so that we would be able to hold onto them throughout the painting, because the light and shadows change throughout the two hours you are painting.  In this location, the tide changed as well.  A marsh full of water might be nearly bone dry by the time you were finishing a painting, so what started out to be a pattern of light on water, could be dark mudflats by the time you finished.  Laurel blogged about her workshop at http://www.laureldaniel.blogspot.com/2014/05/marshside-palms-demo-georgia-workshop.html. We were treated to an opening of Laurel’s works at Anderson Fine Art Gallery on St. Simons Island on Friday evening, midway through the workshop.  There were a lot of red dots on the labels by the end of the evening, indicating “SOLD”.  I would have loved to have brought one home with me, but it already had a red dot on it, sold before I arrived.  I was happy to see works by other amazing artists in the other rooms of the gallery, including Morgan Samuel Price from whom I took a workshop in April. On the last day of the workshop, my muted phone started buzzing while I was shooting some progress photos of the instructor’s demo — it was Joe Taylor calling, the organizer of the Forgotten Coast en Plein Air.  I will be attending a workshop by Ken Dewaard and Greg LaRock after that event, so I thought it might be some details about that.  But no.  Joe started by asking me if I had received his email, and I drew a blank.  I went from confusion to shock, when he said he had emailed me to ask if I would like to be one of the students in a pilot workshop that is being designed as Advanced Plein Air for the Apalachicola School of Art.  I managed to compose myself enough to say Yes!  So I will be taking 2 workshops, back-to-back, next week.  When I set the intention of taking as many plein air workshops as I could afford this year, I didn’t know that I would be getting more workshops than I can afford!  (This one will be free!) I am delayed in getting this blog posted.  We had a flooding rainstorm that shut down the entire Florida Panhandle, closing roads and bringing everything to a standstill.  About 2 feet of rain fell in a 24-hour period.  I was fortunate that my home and business did not suffer any damages, other than a sign blown down.  Many others are not so fortunate.  The same storm spawned killer tornados in other states.  Nevertheless, it kept me from getting back into the studio to practice my new awareness gained from Lasurel Daniel’s workshop. Here’s a quick video of the bridge over the slow moving swamp I cross every day, a half-mile from my home. http://youtu.be/3cGH-p9XM00

Share this: