Monday, June 26, 2017

En Plein Air, Plain Fun, or Plain Frustrating

My first En Plein Air

There was a big En Plein Air affair here in Richmond last week. Unfortunately, I didn’t get into town to see any of it. I had hoped to, but …. other things…. you know…. Anyway, you can read a bit about it on this blog (it’s the official, but there are others).

I do some sketches outside. We have some walking/biking trails here. Some go to playgrounds or parks and some go to the lake. I never thought of what I do as En Plein Air. Take a walk, do a sketch. Well, today that changed. I got inspired by the big Richmond Plein Air affair. I wasn’t just going to sketch while on my walk today, I was going to paint En Plein Air.

Turns out it wasn’t so easy. There is a learning curve. There is stuff to know. Experience counts. My first experience was pretty dismal. 

I had just gotten a compact Winsor & Newton Cotman brush pen set (Father's Day gift).

Winsor & Newton Cotman Compact Brush Pen Set 
Very compact, shirt pocket compact. It came with its own self-contained water brush. I thought “this will be a piece of cake, soft, moist, yummy, easy to eat cake”.    It wasn’t.

I had read reviews about the Winsor & Newton Cotman brush pen set. Very favorable reviews. The only negative that stuck out was one lady’s little rant about the half-pans and paints falling out when she dropped hers. I thought "silly lady, just be careful".

I walked to the lake (that's an understatement, I was jacked up. I was almost skipping. It's hard to get a 72 year old guy excited about much, but thank goodness it can still happen).
While walking the path beside the lake I was looking for a subject to paint En Plein Air with my compact watercolor set. I was feeling a little anxious. I never even tried the new paints. The water brush idea was new to me, too. Never used one. Perhaps the anxiety made it difficult to find a subject. Instead of a new subject I decided to just paint a drawing I had done a few weeks ago on a previous walk. Wouldn’t have to waste time drawing. I could just start painting. En Plein Air!
I'm Stumped - the sketch
Did I mention I’m slightly colorblind? That turns out to be important….

I didn’t bring an easel, just my 8x5.5” multi-media sketchbook and my new compact watercolor set. Luckily, I found a bench by the path that was very close to where I did my sketch. I could stand up, take a few steps over and get my original view. I got the feel of the location, sense of the light, warm breeze off the lake. It was very En Plein Air. Monet, Pissarro, Sargent, Renoir,....

I got the water brush flowing. Dabbed some paint. Made some test swatches on scrap paper. Mixed a little color. You see I had arranged the half pans so that I knew where the colors were. On these dry paint cakes I can’t tell the dark colors apart (that colorblind thing). Once I wet them and dab some on paper I can tell, but not while they are dry in the pans.

I was off to a start. Going light to dark. Mixing my colors as best I could. I decided I needed another look at that stump. As stood up my compact set of paints flipped right off the bench. I suddenly felt the rant of that lady reviewer. Paints and pans all scattered about under the bench. The ground under bench happened to be moist and sandy. As I picked up the paints they were already sticky and covered in sand (as a possible future plus, they do wet easily). All paints and pans were separated. That was bad. The pans have the color names written on their sides. That’s how I knew how to arrange them. Now, I had no idea. Other than the white, yellow, and yellow ochre they all were pretty much the same….dark. Now I was in trouble!
I'm Stumped - I only have a vague idea about the colors in this learning experience

I got the paint cakes back into pans. They were not in their designated pans or my memorized locations. I couldn’t tell by name or location what color I was dealing with. Just trial and error. I couldn’t remember the paint colors as I used them, either. I had memorized them before. That memory was interfering.

Plein Air had become plain frustrating……
(skipping back home, never occurred to me)
Should colorblind people be allowed......
If you would like to add a comment, and I wish you would...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Art Is All Over the Place

Art Is All Over the Place

I enjoy the ambiguity

I enjoy the ambiguity of the statement “art is all over the place”. Two meanings immediately come to mind.
1.      Everywhere you look you see, hear, or read some form of art.
2.      There is a tremendous variety in the art that we are exposed to.
Even when we limit the “art” to visual arts, we still are presented with an overwhelming amount of visual variety. With variety comes preferences. With preferences comes identity, which leads to choices. When choices are made they often become personal. When people have similar preferences and choices they often form “camps”. Now the variety is becoming filtered. It is a way we deal with the overload. As we identify with a certain media, style, genre, etc., we become personally invested. Now things start to get interesting….
Groups, clubs, associations have been formed to impose filtering. Rules are agreed upon. Renegades need not apply. Of course, there are more open-minded associations, but even then most require a declaration. Watercolor, oil, mixed media, collage, drawing, sketch….there are so many methods, so many ways to filter….abstract, observational, realistic, plein air, urban sketch, landscape, portrait, figurative….
Sometimes the filtering becomes boundaries. The strong personal identity leads to exclusion and exclusion to elitist attitudes. To me this is detrimental to “art”. Of course, I understand that if you are having a Watercolor or other media competition you need the boundary. I’m referring to outside of competition when some artists take a position that only their favorite media is legit.
So much for my mini-rant. I know there are very few artists out there that take these extreme positions, but I do occasionally come across them.
I’m so new to “art” that I just now learning about the “camps”. I haven’t been considering them much. I have “paintings” with Gouache, Acrylics, Watercolor, Ink, and Charcoal. I wasn’t filtering at all. Just grabbing for something that might solve a problem. Maybe as I mature as an artist I will gain control over my impulses. Learn to filter. I doubt it, though.
I am reusing a painting from the Still-life post.
So Succulent - 11x14 canvas on frame,
mostly gouache, but acrylic, a bit of watercolor,
ink, and a smudge of charcoal.
Today I have been reading reviews about acrylic gouache. It sounds intriguing. Just might solve a few of my problems. It won’t solve my main problem, though. I just need to do some painting. I haven’t made a mark in days.
Anybody have experience with acrylic gouache???