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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Three Goals for Plein Air Painting

'Rain Dance'            10x12         pastel              ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting here $155
The weather forecast changed drastically. We were supposed to have 5 days of warm Blue Sky days. Then it changed. Bad weather was on the way and there was a chance for cloudy skies and rain. I wasn't happy about the rain but secretly I rejoiced about the possibility of clouds.  I love blue skies but clouds can make things so much more interesting.....and challenging to paint.

I have three goals for plein air painting and they all come together on an interesting weather day. It happened in Iceland and it happened for me in New Mexico. The forecast called for 90% chance of thunderstorms. The morning arrived with clouds....but also peeks of sun. It made for the most interesting painting conditions. I painted fast and furiously trying to meet my painting goals.

The group set up to paint the iconic view over Ghost Ranch
 Every artist who paints on location has their own reasons for painting outside. I have my own and they can be summarized into three goals:

  •  Work Quickly. As Richard McKinley reminded us...."It is vast and wonderful and we can't have it all"  I want it all but I know it can't all go into one painting. I scan the location and find a spot that offers several potential paintings. I choose to work quickly so I can paint more than one view. Working quickly also helps me better capture the mood and light of the place before it changes.
  • Work Small. I consider my plein air paintings studies. They are my notes in the form of a picture. I am taking notes on the colors and shapes and light that I see. Working small allows me to take more notes!
  • Just be out there. I don't listen to music when I paint on location. I want to involve all of my senses as I paint. I relish the wind, the sun, the cold and even the bugs. They are all a part of the experience. These things make the place real. They stay with me and help color the way I will interpret my reference photos back in the studio. 
The interesting weather really energized me. I managed to finish 10 studies on that wonderful day! These studies will continue to inspire me now that I am back home.

'Ghost Ranch 3'          8x10       pastel        plein air         $150

My photo of this amazing view!
Painting notes: The top painting is the studio painting done on Uart paper. The bottom painting is an 8x10 plein air painting done at the same spot. 


Sandi G said...

Great work , Karen . When you say you don't spend a lot of time on the plein air paintings , I assume because the light is changing fast and you want to paint another view.
Approximately how long did you spend on the plein air portion of your painting ?
Thanks, Sandi

Karen said...

Thanks Sandi! I'll answer your question better in today's post but the short answer is the plein air painting (at the bottom) was done in about 20-30 minutes. The studio painting (at top) was done in about 1 1/2 hours.

robertsloan2art said...

That's beautiful. Thanks for showing both the studio painting and the plein air, it helps me understand how to do this. I rarely work larger than 8 x 10" due to physical disabilities, but I started to understand the way that affects composition. I can't get as complicated in a small painting as a large one, but being able to work fast makes a big difference in whether I can do it or not.

I get outside every couple of weeks and one of these times I will do a pastel. Usually I wind up doing a watercolor but I've got my kit set up and maybe next week will be it!