Sep 17, 2009

My adventures with painting "Plein Air"!




Like all of my artist friends, I knew the day would come when I had to paint outdoors. I was not too excited about this because I don’t like heat or cold, and I especially don’t like wind.
But, everyone needs to experience Plein Air painting just once, or at least I thought they did.
First I had to get a lightweight easel that I could carry easily. Next a box to carry all of my supplies in. That was easy, a tackle box worked perfectly.
So with my car loaded up with all the supplies and a cooler full of water and sandwiches I set out with my friend Diane. She loved to paint out of doors, so this was not a new experience for her.
We decided on a local historical working farm. It was open to the public and the house was built around the turn of the century and it was really beautiful. There were horses, sheep, chickens, ducks and pigs on this farm, lots of pigs. Many good subjects to choose from. I decided to paint the old barn, a great looking structure just the right color of faded red.
I walked around the whole area looking for the best view, when I found the one I wanted I began to set up my easel and supplies.
First I discovered I did not have any place to put my palette and brushes ….darn I wish I had brought a T.V. table! My friend had a “French Easel” which has places for all the stuff we need…well I just had to make do.
I sat everything on the ground beside me; this was going to be fun…Wrong!
I set up my easel tapping the little pegs on each leg into the soft ground to make sure it would be stable. I put my rather large canvas on the easel and I was ready. Or so I thought… I should have brought my hat to keep the sun out of my eyes because you can’t wear sunglasses when you are painting out of doors and of course I forgot the sun block too! Oh well I will only be out here for a few hours so I figured I would be fine. I was wrong…Again.
The first thing I noticed were the “flies” yep all the animals were attracting the flies and they for some reason liked me and my canvas. It was annoying but Diane just said it was part of this experience and after a while I would get so involved in my painting I would not even give them a second thought. Wrong!
I got the sketch on the canvas with diluted oils and then blocked everything in when a bunch of school children on a outing surrounded me and stood watching while the teacher explained what I was doing, which was really interesting to me because I did not even know I was doing what she said I was. They stood there forever, I began to feel a bit uneasy and then I stepped on my palette and well you know the rest! This just delighted the kids and they thought it was the funniest thing they had ever seen, I know my face was bright red now. Well at least I entertained them for a while. After cleaning the paint off my shoes and between my toes, of course I had on sandals, I started painting again. I thought that my skin seemed to be getting a little red……….
After about two hours I had a lot of paint on my canvas but did not particularly like what I saw, it was very messy and loose and I am a tight painter so to me it was not very good. The thing is that when you’re painting out doors you only have a few hours of the good light and when it starts to change the shadows change. The light changes and then you have to stop. So you have to paint fast!
The day was getting hotter my arms were looking redder and there was a little bit of wind that was starting up, now some artists love Plein air painting because it puts them directly into the natural surroundings they are trying to capture. Their close association with the scents and sights actually stimulates their creativity and makes the experience more enjoyable. The natural scents of pigs and manure just did not get it for me.
I was sweaty, hot, sunburned and spending lots of time hitting the flies off of me and my painting, and then I noticed that the oil had attracted some little flying bugs and they were all stuck in the paint making my work look like it had freckles.
So I scraped them off and added some more paint this time with my knife. I was getting desperate trying to create at least something to show for my time that looked half decent. Wrong again!
A big wind gust came up and blew my canvas onto my chest, I had a white shirt on and when I peeled it off of me I had a very nice work of art on my shirt, a little distorted but it sort of looked like an impressionistic painting. At this point I just threw my hands up and told my friend Diane that I was going home…. I was sunburned, sweaty, hungry ( we never did stop to eat) covered in oil paint…now that is what I call fun!!!! Wrong!

Second Try:
The next time I went out and yes I tried it again....don't ask me why. This time I was more prepared, I even had a big umbrella that clipped on my easel. No sun burn today! We were standing in a field by a little stream, it was really beautiful but before long the wind grabbed my umbrella and off went my little easel with my painting flying in the opposite direction.
I ran to grab it and when I reached down to pick it up guess what I encountered? A big old ugly water snake.If you know me you know that I am deathly afraid of snakes and spiders. We just don't do well together. I ran into rattle snakes too many times on my horse when I was a teen riding in the hills around my house. I was almost bucked off more than once when my horse shied sideways when a snake rattled at us! That was it for me, there was no way I could stay painting in a field where at any moment a snake could slither across my feet!


Third try....I know you are probably thinking "this lady does not learn from past experiences" and you would be right to think that! However I am the type of personality that if I fail at something I keep trying...so once again I decided to set up my easel at our family cabin. I just knew that this time was gong to be the charm...you know the third time. So I wanted to paint the sunset, and we had our cabin on the Provo river, well I must has the best blood around because the minute I started painting I was engulfed with very large mosquitoes, they were everywhere! All I could do was swat at them, so I did not get eaten alive...no way could I paint. However the paint brush was a good swatter and after I had swatted my canvas a few times I realized that I was painting like a modern aritst,you know the ones who just throw the paint on the canvas! By the time I got my stuff put away I had so many bits on me that I looked like I had the Measels but my painting actually looked quite good...that is if you like modern art! I wonder if I sould have kept that painting??? Maybe I could have sold it for a bunch of money.............
So now you have the whole story...I did finally learn a lesson and that was to NEVER paint outdoors again and I never have and I have never missed it!

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