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Monday, April 23, 2012

Extreme Plein Air...Yes you can Paint in the Rain!

Plein Air Pastel Studies from the 1st Annual Plein Air Convention  each 2.5x3.5
'Dramatic Skies'                   2.5 x 3.5         plein air pastel        ©Karen Margulis

It wasn't supposed to be cold and rainy in Las Vegas.  The week before the 1st Annual Plein Air Convetion temperatures in Las Vegas were in the 90's.  Luckily I like to be prepared so I still packed my fleece, wool socks and gloves. I needed them.

Our painting day arrived and it was in the 40's with a cold wind and some drizzle thrown in for extra fun. I needed all of my layers!  Over 500 intrepid plein air painters boarded buses to our painting location Spring Valley Ranch. It was a gorgeous spot made even more mystical by the dramatic skies and the mist moving in and out over the mountains. 

My plan was to bring my small backpack with my extreme pastel kit. I intended to watch the star painters and take photos. I figured that painting with pastels in the rain wouldn't be a good idea. Yet I wanted a small kit in case I was inspired to paint. And I was!  You couldn't help top be inspired. So during a dry spell I sat down and opened my box (remember my post about bringing a vinyl tablecloth for plein air!)

I decided to paint small. I set up my foamcore board with two pieces of 2.5x3.5 paper and painted two small studies at a time. I was set up behind Marc Hanson and Michael Godfrey so it was easy to be inspired!  My small box of pastels consists of a random assortment of NuPastels and Giraults. I made whatever I had work. My goal was to capture the mood and colors of the constantly changing scene. Have a look at my paintings. You can even see the raindrops on a few of them!

Painting in the cold drizzle

My small plein air box. Marc Hanson painting in the distance
The next time you are planning to paint and the weather isn't cooperating. Go Paint!  We experienced the most amazing and magical light. The cold, wind and rain touched all of our senses. I know that when I paint from these studies I will bring my experiences to my studio painting. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything!  Here are some tips for extreme plein air. (this was extreme for me...if you really want to see an artist who takes extreme plein air painting to the limit check out Cory Trepanier who paints the Arctic!)
  • Be prepared. Have the right clothing for the conditions. You can't paint if you are uncomfortable.
  • Scale down. You don't have to have your entire regular set-up to capture the mood of the location. A small set of pastels or even a sketchbook will allow you to get enough information.
  • Take photos. Your pictures along with your memories of the day will aid you in painting from your studies.
  • Don't be a hero....if you are too cold or hot don't push yourself. Get in from the elements to recharge before going back out.


robertsloan2art said...

Wow! This is fantastic! I love it - and what a great idea to bring very small pieces of paper.

I have a stack of 3 1/2" x 5" heavy watercolor paper that I could prime a few pieces to put in my vest pockets. When I go out for anything, like a clinic visit, I've got a pocket watercolor Moleskine and pocket watercolor set in that vest along with assorted pencils and an ATC pad.

I don't have the mini pastel kit you describe but I keep a 12 color set of color Conte in one of the pockets. It's a khaki fisherman's vest with a lot of pockets so I can put quite a lot of gear in. What's inspiring is the thought of using that precut paper to do pastel ATCs when I'm out with just the vest.

It'd be a matter of an hour or so to do the priming, no problem at all.

Roxanne Steed said...

These are wonderful! and yes it was wicked cold that day!!

Anonymous said...

Don't use photos. Paint from life.