2018 Workshop Schedule. New workshops added! click here for details.
Visit my Patreon Page for more painting instruction

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why Bother with Plein Air Painting?

'Back to Abiquiu'        18x24        pastel        ©Karen Margulis
available $450
 It has been a long time coming. I have been wanting to paint this scene for a couple of years now. My plan was to take the little field study I painted and paint a larger version in the studio. I envisioned it big ... 18x24 which is big for me. I framed the little study because it came attached with great memories. It sat in my studio and I would look at it and tell myself that someday I would paint it larger. Today was the day. But did I wait too long? I was a bit concerned as I took out a full sheet of Uart paper.

Would I remember the place and be able to capture how I felt about it after a few years had passed?

I need not have feared. As soon as I took a good look at the little 5x7 study it all came flooding back. I recalled every detail of the afternoon painting on the bluff overlooking the Chama River. I remember it was a warm day but with a gentle cooling breeze. I remember taking out a piece of 5x7 paper and deciding to tone it orange because of all of the warm rocks underlying the scrubby bushes. I remember hearing the water and some ravens. I remember feeling at peace....happy to be in New Mexico and enjoying the first day of a mentoring workshop with Richard McKinley. Looking at the little study brought back the memories that all of my senses took in that afternoon.

The 18x24 painting with the 5x7 study
I don't think I could have recalled the place so well by looking at a photograph. The time I took to paint the scene...to choose the colors...to simplify...to immerse myself, allowed it to become a part of me. It was worth the time and effort required to take supplies outside to paint.

Why bother? I was once asked. Why hassle with equipment and the elements when you can paint in the comfort of a studio? Why? Because it is the best way to really see what photos miss. It is a wonderful way to fully experience your subject. It is the best way to put more of yourself into a painting. Your response to a place live and in person is better than relying only on a photo.

I did an alcohol wash underpainting for the large painting
Here is an excerpt from the blog post I wrote on the day I painted the study:

 We painted from morning until the sun sank behind the cliffs. It is a dream come true. The opportunity to paint in such an inspiring place with a group of artists who are passionate about what they do is priceless. Today was the first day of the workshop with Richard McKinley and since this is a mentoring or next level workshop the morning meeting was short but filled with great advice. Richard issued us a challenge for the week: To be more conceptual....go deeper....be more present.....go beyond the mechanics of painting....go farther! 
Our first painting location was a spot high above the Chama River. Yesterday I painted at the river bank....today I was like a raven soaring over the river as it rounded the bend. It was fantastic. I did 4 studies and had a wonderful time.


Tomíno Valík said...

Really nice painting and tips, Karen! Words can't describe how your blog is helpful to me. Thank you very much :)

Sewing Up A Storm said...

I live near Albuquerque New Mexico and think you captured the essence of our state in your painting..........love it!