Friday, June 27, 2008

Astonishment, Power, and Plein Air Painting

Early on in this career as an artist, I decided to only paint from my own observations, or my own photo’s. At that time this idea, newly formed came from the idea of establishing a work ethic and also from practical reasoning; art galleries want original art. Since that time I have discovered a more profound reason behind this idea of original art and that is the power of observation that plein air painting brings.

I am astonished to find how many things there are in the land, and every object in it that I never noticed before. In every walk or day painting plein air there is tremendous new pleasure and interest, so many colors on a hillside, each different in shadow and in sunlight; such brilliant reflections in the water, each a key lower than what they repeat; and such lovely lights. I find myself noting the tint and character of a leaf, the purple shades of mountains, the lace of winter branches, the dim, pale silhouettes of far horizons. I had lived before without ever noticing any of them except in a general way, as one might say what a lovely view.

This heightened sense of observation of Nature is one of the chief delights that have come to me through trying to paint. I found that nothing will make me observe more thoroughly than having to face the difficulty of representing the thing observed.

The next power of observation came to me after the first, and that is looking at the paintings of the great painters, present and of the past. I bring the observations I have collected in the field into comparison with the treatment of similar incidents by famous artists. I see the difficulty that baffled me yesterday and how easily it has been overcome by a skilful painter, and my own power of observation is improved and developed.

If you see me out in the open air wearing the obligatory floppy hat, an easel, and a look of rapture, know this; I am not bored and simply have some time on my hands. Good gracious! What there is to admire and how little time there is to see it in!

Here are some fellow plein air artist. We met at the park and each settled in to paint. From left to right, Joan Crice, Arlene Larison, and Dorothy Walter.


Celeste Bergin said...

Yes! When people stop and say "oh, that looks so relaxing" (that I am painting) I often want to tell them the truth...I am a thousand percent engaged..I am not "playing around!" (even though it may look that way) ha! I enjoyed this post..because I know exactly what you mean!

Donna Van Tuyl said...

Thank you Celeste. This is really something another aritst would understand, and confuse the rest....hope to paint with you soon!