- The Art and Science of Watercolor
- Outdoor Garden Painting
- Botanical Painting
- Artful Aging
- Rockridge Cafe
- Paint supply list
- Watercolor Basics
- Think like an Artist
- MORE Basics book
- John Singer Sargent: Copies for sale
- Learning from ARTISTS
- Copies of Masters
- class photos
- paint an apple
- Draw a Tree: Analysis of Personality
- New Page
- New Paintings
- Paintings sold as Prints
Capturing the Wild
A group of students will meet this month to paint outside, or as we like to say “plein air”, to bring an aura of mystery to the process.
The spot will be at the apex of wild California coast, and a symbol of the heights of civilization: the Golden Gate bridge. Great subject matter that has been painted almost as much as Mont St Michel, partly to sell paintings to tourists, but also because of the magnificence of the vista.
But painting outside is not as romantic as it might seem. Yes, there is a certain quality of immediacy that can translate into capturing the essence of nature and famous landmarks. But there are many practical problems with outdoor painting.
A pre-photographic-era artist would think it kind of crazy to paint from life outdoors if you had a chance of taking a picture and then going back to a safe, warm studio with even lighting, and painting it from there. Why did poor Monet have to go back every day to the hayfields to paint for the same fifteen minutes of constant light before it changed? Then of course he gave up and just painted a bunch of different haystacks in various light. Which turned out ok for him.
Clouds and waves are going to change. The clouds are going to keep changing the light, never mind the moving earth changing the light throughout three hours of painting. This requires a sophisticated approach to garnering the essence of the scene, combined with the correct order of steps. For example, it might be best to get the sky over with in a quick, wet on wet technique, then picking, without over simplifying their complex beauty, before the light changes again.
Another issue is boundaries. Being outside can be overwhelming and make it hard to choose what to include. So it is vital that you bring a viewfinder to frame a decent composition.
Lowering expectations for one’s first outdoor painting session is a good idea. It will take time to get used to balancing yet more variables, after barely getting used to the water element of watercolor constantly bringing unexpected results. However, keep in mind that what you produce will not seem great while doing it, but might amaze you when you get back home and take an objective view.
Finally, there are outdoor comfort problems, most of which can be mitigated with hats, layers of clothing, and correct supplies and seating arrangements. And if there is a hike to get to the good location, everything should be minimal. Luckily, watercolor supplies can be reduced to a small pack. Don’t forget the water and coffee, or protein bar to keep you going! And a good resting spot for after-painting wine!
COMING THIS SPRING: Wednesday lessons at a Botanical Center:
Ruth Bancroft GARDEN: Click here