Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Challenges of Painting en Plein Air

Just outside the walls of Murs
Challenge #1: Hauling the Stuff
I have to confess that I had very little experience painting en plein air, prior to this trip. I am a studio painter. I only began painting landscapes about three years ago, and then started with my own photographs of views taken while at my cottage, on vacation, or from the car window.  That interest turned into a bit of a passion for the subject – especially once I got past the ‘trees don’t have to be green’ idea. Finding a view and hauling my stuff there, fighting with the insect world and changing weather conditions just did not seem very attractive. 
Of course there are limits to using only photographic references when landscape painting – but I like to think that that has allowed me to be more creative with the subject. Hauling my stuff around in Provence, however, sounded just fine. Even if I looked and felt like a pack horse. Most of my painting colleagues were watercolourists – which I dabble in occasionally but I really prefer acrylics – and despite their weight that was what I was schlepping, along with the water, the easel, the canvases (removed from their stretchers), and all the other things required to paint.  I learned painting with acrylics is not only cumbersome, but tricky in a hot dry and sometimes breezy place like Provence where the paint on the palette often dried up (in spite of the retarder) before I could get it on the canvas. I also learned to sit down and paint (adding a folding stool to my assortment of things to haul) as I was closer to the ground (which acted as my ‘table’) where my paints and water were spread out – a much better arrangement then constantly bending over to get something. 

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