Friday, May 23, 2014
Back to Nature
Yesterday I finally got back out to paint directly from nature after months of painting in school and the studio, and it was great. Along with a a few members of the Philadelphia Plien Air Painters I returned to paint near the Swedish Cabin along the Darby Creek, about 15 minutes from my house and a great spot I have painted at a few times in the past year. There are so many great places to paint there I will be going back for sure, especially since it's so close. It was certainly a heck of a lot warmer this time painting out doors than the last time I did it back in January when it was freezing out along the Brandywine Creek.
I was pretty inspired to get back to plein air painting after being cramped up in the studio and after seeing the fantastic Anders Zorn show last weekend at the national Academy in NYC. Art High from the inspiration of seeing the Swedish master's work up close , his magnificent depictions of water and nature, I wanted to get out and try my hand at painting water and see if I had learned anything. I wasalso using one of the linen cover birch panels I purchased last year from Source Tek. The panel is great, I think it might be the best surface I have painted on to date. Just a little drag to it that gives me a slight dry brush feel if I want.
After hunting around and finding a few new spots the group split up and went off painting. I found a spot with a good composition of trees and laid out my palette and went at it as the weather forecast was that rain or pop-up thunderstorms could rain us out at any point. I worked pretty steady, taking a few brakes to see what everybody else was up to. Alina, who wasn't painting but who originally found this spot came down to visit as she and Will live right up the road from the Swedish Cabin. She visited with Niloofar who was working in ink. Will was working in gouache and Shaun in oils like me.
I always feel that at any moment I am about to fail when painting like this and after a while of not painting out doors like this I have to stop myself from getting carried away with details too early. I kept thinking back to Zorn as an example of how to design, suggest things instead of getting bogged down in details. Painting water is always a challenge and both Sargent and Zorn make it look so easy, which it isn't. I found myself taking my time and looking at the water, really studying the patterns (shapes) and slowly putting down shapes and then correcting them by painting back into them. Using my thumb or finger or back of the brush also seemed to help adjust or soften things a bit here and there. The main thing was figuring out when to stop. I think that might be one of the most crucial points of plein air painting, when to stop and not kill the spontaneity and energy of the piece.
Here is my piece almost finished and Will's awesome little goache studies below.
This weekend I'll try and get back out and paint again, maybe this time down at the beach.