"Often when we paint plein air we have to paint quickly to capture the image before the light changes too much. This calls for a simplification of the subject to its basic elements, also known as abstraction." That is what Don Maier says at the top of the "Abstract Plein Air" group on PleinAirArtists. Spoken like a true open air artist and very valid and each to his own I say.
I am as obsessive as the next artist but my obsession is with painting, not light. For me light is a given, we would not see without it. A theatre in complete darkness is still a theatre. An unlit stage is no different to a lit stage and doesn't only become real again when the lights are switched on. I am more interested in what the actor is saying than how her head reflects the stagelights, beautiful and all as that reflection might be. I'm not concerned either whether the play is staged in a theatre, an open air amphitheatre or a forest.
I'm not exactly sure where I'm going with this but to get back to Don's words; I just wanted to say that I, for one, am not too concerned about capturing the light. I find the image is often burned into my mind in the first fifteen seconds. I can still feel the sun on my head and the glare in my eyes from the day I sat in front of this scene (see attached painting).
However the glare and the heat are not what it's about. They are tools to convey something. I would write about it if I could but then I wouldn't be a painter but a writer.
Plein air painting has become, probably always was, very popular helped by daily blogs from American plein air artists such as Stapleton Kearns and the huge popularity of Kevin MacPherson and his art books. The latter has been an inspiration to me and his positive easy going attitude. Simplification of a scene is the key capturing the atmosphere the moment or the light...whatever. To me the scene has to be right as well. Too often one sees a painting rendered well and technically good but often the scene or subject is quite dull. Contrast, light shade, texture, bold colour are what I love in painting. I was looking at a Derek Hill painting in Belfast the other week, painted I do believe on Tory Island plein air and it looked rough up close but wonderful from a distance, when it all came together. Hill had simplified it down to grey, white, dark green blue as contrast with a warm yellow ground which shone through the whole painting.To me one has to see impact in the painting and not just a painting for paintings sake.
I for one have been taking "what I want" from plein air painting for 30 years, or more accurately taking what I can get from it, or what it cares to give me ( sh*t 30 years ) and it just bothers me a little to see something that I love being analysed to death, light keys, colour keys, tonal values, capturing and chasing the light are all very well but concentrate on them to much and you will paint like a chemist!
"Painting is mystifying and I don't want to demystify it" Frank Aurbach
Frank Aurbach! obsessively working from the model, obsessively working sketching in the streets of London to this very day, obsessively sketching in the National Gallery and if you ever have a cup of coffee there you will see 150+ of his sketches from the great masters from the collection
Lots choose to paint, but some have no choice, and some of us may have had a much more comfortable life style if we had a choice. and I am not knocking the fleeting moment, capturing the light approaches, but hey! there is more than one way to skin a cat!
who says you must paint the size of a postage stamp? who says you must complete a painting in an hour , or do three a day, capturing the moment isn't easy I know, but capturing time is even more difficult.
When I look at one of the great paintings by Rembrandt, Turner, Constable, Van Gogh, Soutine, Giacometti, Mondrian, Popova, Saville or one of the other artists that I admire their work tells me as much about the Artist as the subject. Art, like life takes time
I came across this which I thought interesting.
I'm not sure this is exactly the right Forum thread to post it to but read it and make up your own mind.
Plein air painting does attract performers, and why not? I have no great love of the performance element probably because years of hand-painting shopfronts in the high street has made me indifferent to onlookers. (I'm not saying I don't revel in the compliments which I invariably get when out painting). For me painting outdoors has been and hopefully will always be a part of my artistic practice.
I, for one, will continue to keep an eye on those performers because although they often pick a high profile location, it is often too the best one.