‘What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare. No time to stand beneath the boughs And stare as long as sheep or cows…….’ from the poem ‘Leisure’ – by William Henry Davies.
Plein Air painting affords us the opportunity to stand and stare. As we observe the ever changing light, we become present to the sights, sounds and smells that surround us. After a while we become one with our subject and with that comes a sense of wellbeing.
Kent landscape – watercolour/gouache This post is to encourage those who might feel a little nervous of painting in public, to throw caution to the wind, and give it a go……..
Some tips: –
1) Travel light. – A small sketch pad, one brush, sketching pen, a plastic cup for found water….i.e. river, stream, puddle, pub…..(Unless you are in the desert water is usually easy to find)
2) A limited palette. – I take seven colours….and could easily cut down to four.
2) Some people prefer a sketching stool….I look for steps, walls, benches, rocks….
3) Sun hat – (sunglasses distort colour)
4) snack and water to drink.
5) Optional – a camera to use as reference for future studio work.
Note that in this photograph I have found a table….(I was staying with good friends in Wales) Also note the plastic bag on the table. Normally for cosmetics it’s compact, has a zip and a handle, and makes for finding a brush or a tube of paint quick and easy. Perfect for plein air sketching.
Overlooking the Usk Valley where the Black Mountains and Brecon Beacons National Park meet…..One of the watercolours I painted during that visit. I plan to return again this year and do many more sketches there. It’s important to remember that when painting outside technique comes second to observing the essence of the subject. The aim is to capture a sense of place…rather than every detail.
In this quick felt tip pen and watercolour sketch from Mas Cabardes S. W. France….I picked the essential components of the scene….capturing an idea of place. When I painted this rapid watercolour/gouache sketch, I was on the edge of a 4,000 ft cliff overlooking the white village of Zuheros, Andalucia, Spain, with forests and olive groves going off into the distance. It was very windy, and numerous lion eagles were flying overhead. An extremely exhilarating moment.
It is all too easy to be overwhelmed with the visual feast set before you, and so again the key is to pick the essential components. In this instance, I used blocks of colour…rather than any detail. From a pocket sized sketch book – Fishing boats on Armona Island, Portugal…..
I remember this vividly. I was in Portugal and the sun was setting over the hills….and I needed to capture the moment…and so again there is no detail whatsoever – just my feeling of what was happening. watercolour. I sketched this on a boat in Kinsale Harbour, County Cork Ireland.…and the colours were just like this…..Often when working in sketchbooks, I join up the pages as you can see here. Another very happy moment. I was with my dear friends Mariethe Salort (artist) and Bonnie Halsey Dutton (artist). We were celebrating July 4th that day and sketched this village – Courrier-sur-Sein – not too far from Paris……watercolour/gouache. I remember there were lots of little boys who wanted to get in on the action. 🙂From a pocket sized sketch book off the coast of Akyaka, Turkey. watercolour.
This final piece was painted in Monet’s Garden at Giverney. My friend Mariethe Salort had arranged that we could paint in the gardens when all the visitors had gone. It was such a wonderful summer’s evening and one I will never forget. watercolour/gouache
If you have not done anything like this before and are nervous to go it alone….there are groups you can join….or art associations that organise days of plein air painting for all levels, including beginners. I can not recommend it enough…..
Of course I always surround myself with magical hummingbirds no matter where I am in the world…..and every now and then I am in places where they are the subject. watercolour