Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Plein Air Painting - A Battle of Wills!

Needless to say it has been way too long since I posed on my blog…..but I promise to try to do better.  Actually, I have been painting and gathering “inspiration” for my paintings and have been too busy to sit down and blog.    

Last fall, I spent a week at Arrowmont in Gatlinburg, TN participating in a plein air painting class.  During this time, a group of fellow artists went up into the mountains and painted trying to capture the subtle changes in the sun and shadows on the canvas. 

I usually paint in watercolor, but for this trip I chose to use acrylic paints.  This was an interesting change for me which I enjoyed immensely.    The painting above is one that I painted plein air with my easel set up by the side of a mountain stream.

In this blog, I’ll discuss the challenges in plein air painting as compared to painting in studio.

Where to start? 


1.       People
Actually, painting in plein air in a national park, especially one as busy as the Great Smoky Mountains, is not easy.  Fall is a popular time of year for the park for leaf viewing as some of the most beautiful mountain vistas in the world bring millions of visitors every year.  And, the novelty of an artist painting a landscape right in front of the tourist is a distraction that most tourists can’t ignore.    The artist’s time is limited and most tourists would like to talk about the painting…..not to mention, the one or two that would like to learn and ask to add a brush stroke or two to the painting.  (This one surprised me!)    However, I am an outgoing person and enjoyed the interactions, but had to keep painting and not stop to talk.  On the positive side, tourists are for the most part very complimentary - which gives a great boast to the ego.  Some of my fellow artists did run into one or two tourists that saw themselves as art critics. 

2.       Climate
We ran into numerous weather changes – sun, rain, wind, cold, heat….all in the same day!  We were prepared to dress in layers, but the rush of battling the elements when sudden rainstorms hit was quite a chore.  It never seemed to fail that as soon as we got to a location, set up and started painting, the weather would change.  Rain caused problems with all of the paints.  Wind caused many of us to hold tightly to our easel with one hand and the paint brush with the other.  Once a strong gush of wind blew over one of our artist’s easel and he chased it down  - almost falling over the side of the mountain.  He said that he had worked too hard on his painting to let blow down 3,000 feet – at least not without an effort to catch it.

3.      Bugs
Insect repellent works great and we all used it to keep the mosquitoes and flying insects away.   But, we could not spray our paintings and it was common to look up and see a gnat or some crawling bug working his way across the canvas of wet paint.  It did add some interesting designs. 

4.       Portability
Easels, paint and canvases:  we had to carry everything we needed with us including water, etc. for clean up.  All the equipment, no matter how pared down one thought they were, was heavy!  Boy, were we tired by the end of the day!

5.       Wild animals
Although the Smoky Mountains are known for black bear spotting, we never ran across one while out painting.  However, we did find bear footprints on the windshield of our van one morning.  We were serenaded by a bull moose in the North Carolina side of the mountains one day. 

 In summary:

The glare of the sun, rain and wind, biting insects or worrisome wild animals, as well as interruptions caused by fellow humans, all add to making what should seem like a delightful experience -- drawing or painting in the fresh air -- into a battle of wills.

It was a memorable experience and one that I would do again!

Below is a short description of Arrowmont.   They offer all kinds of classes and the experience of classes there is unforgettable!
Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts is an arts and crafts center located in Gatlinburg, TN.  The oldest craft school in Tennessee, Arrowmont offers workshops in arts and crafts such as painting, woodworking, glassblowing, photography, basket weaving and metalworking.    The campus contains the oldest buildings in Gatlinburg and comprises two historic district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
For additional information or just some interesting reading, check out their site:  http://www.arrowmont.org/
Happy Painting!

No comments: