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Saturday, May 26, 2018

Plein Air Tip: What to do When you are Overwhelmed

'Poppies in Iceland 2'            5x7           pastel             ©Karen Margulis
Since we have been exploring the world of plein air painting I wanted to share this helpful post from the archives:

I was ready for it. I packed my supplies and chose my pastels carefully. I had practiced with my setup and confidently opened my paint box and attached my paper. I was ready. Then it hit me.  Iceland was overwhelming. I stood before the perfect painting scene. It had it all....water, rocky cliffs with stark houses lit by the sun, a rolling flower filled meadow leading to the sea and a gorgeous sky.  How was I to choose what to paint in the face of a landscape painter's dream? Plein air painting can be a challenge!

What is a plein air painter to do? Sometimes we just get so overwhelmed that we freeze....and then nothing works. Or we get so excited that we forget the basics...and nothing works. I have some advice.

'Poppies in Iceland'          5x7         pastel           ©Karen Margulis

  • First, take a deep breath and relax. It is important that you remember why you are painting. You don't want to be so tense that you forget to enjoy the scene or the moment! 
  • Next, don't be so quick to get started. Take a few minutes to shoot some photos and walk around. See what really catches your interest. Then set up. 
  • Now go ahead and paint but allow yourself to paint a dud for your first painting. Remind yourself that you don't have to only paint one perfect painting. You can paint more than one so it is OK if the first one doesn't work. You are getting warmed up.  I usually choose the grand view for my first painting.  When I am overwhelmed I want to paint it all....in one painting. So I try. It usually is a dud! But that is OK. Now I am relaxing and ready.
  • When you don't know what to paint because you are overwhelmed and the choices are too many...try to focus on just one thing. Maybe it is the sky that interests you...minimize the land then. Maybe the light on the building catches your interest...paint just the building. Ask yourself WHY and then focus on that one thing. Or, paint what you know. Paint what you are comfortable with before trying new things. And finally remember that the more you work on smaller motifs the more confident you will feel. Don't try to put it all in one painting!
For me, I was drawn to my favorite thing to paint....flowers in the landscape. I was drawn to the Icelandic Poppies. At first I resisted painting them. After all I could paint these anywhere. Shouldn't I be painting the cliff and the water? I wanted to paint the poppies so I did and it felt good. (I did paint the rest of the scene but painting what I know helped me to warm up!

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