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Thursday, August 08, 2019

Why Bother with Painting en Plein Air?

'Back to Abiquiu'            24x18            pastel        ©Karen Margulis
While I am in Alaska I am sharing some posts from the archives. Enjoy!

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 choose the 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 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 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.

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