I’ve been painting and drawing for as long as I can remember. I sketch objects around me and have always preferred to work from life. Landscapes and still-life vary dramatically from different viewpoints and atmospheric conditions provide endless subject matter.
Wind and weather can create problems for an artist working outside. A canvas becomes a sail in a gust of wind and a palette of wet paint a repository for all kinds of bugs and debris. Once I have the easel and painting surface stabilized with clips and bungee cords, nature begins to enhance the painting process. I have applied paint with reeds, feathers and sticks found at the site. Bits of shell and sand have worked there way into finished paintings.
My artwork relies on the combination of experimentation and inspiration. Going out on the coldest days to paint can be invigorating. Foggy and misty conditions can enhance a scene. Working in wet weather often adds “unexpected” texture to the painting surface.
My painting “kit” changes to suit the conditions, but I usually wear a hat and comfortable shoes. I carry tubes of paint, towels, brushes, and containers filled with medium in a bag. I try to find the lightest easel and carrying case that can be slung over my shoulder. An umbrella is often brought along to keep glare off the canvas.
Set up is accomplished quickly once a subject has been chosen. The angle of the sun and simple movements of nature can alter the scene. I try to capture what has inspired me before these changes are too great.
I am mindful of my brushstrokes and keep them similar throughout the picture. I work the entire surface evenly. The first layer of paint is a thin transparent wash applied quickly with a large brush. (A blank canvas causes harsh glare out of doors and the colors showing through the final paint layers can create pleasing effects.) Each successive layer is applied with thicker paint. One of the great challenges I face with each new work is to find a balance between what is planned and what is not, and to keep beautiful areas that happen early in the process from disappearing when the work is finished.
Painting “en plein air” is a challenge, but well worth the effort. Even though the light may change, petals fall or vegetables dull in the time it takes to complete a painting, the slight movements and color variations are inviting to study.