Plein Eire

Your Site For Artists Who Paint Outdoors

"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.

Views: 134

Attachments:

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

To me your image is a semiabstract, which alowes you to explore, and still retain the essence of the original. I have followed this path on some paintings, which then went on to become total abtract, this way of working can add an extra level to your working methods, stoping you from becoming stayed in your way of looking at things around you.
You probably know that I have a totally opposite view, Kevin, when it comes to working plein air. For me the light or rather the colour of the light ("light key") is everything when it comes to painting plein air. Nature creates her own harmony by infusing everything with sunlight, the colour and intensity of which varies with the time of day, the season and the weather. I am continually inspired by the sheer beauty of nature and try to show my viewers what I saw or more correctly "experienced" when viewing a particular scene. That of course means editing what I see so that only those elements which are essential remain - I suppose my goal is to enhance the particular light effect which caught my eye in the first place. Regardless, our own individuality as artists ultimately comes through in our work and therein lies the wonder, because any number of "representational" artists painting the same scene will come up with very different paintings and yet the viewer will get a sense of reality and hopefully something extra from all of them.

Pursuing the portrayal of the "light key" is one of the most difficult goals any artist can set themselves. Most of the French impressionists eventually gave up on it, perhaps even Claude Monet after the late 1890's. I'll probably give up on it too, but will probably go completely mad first (as opposed to only half mad at the moment!). I'm not for a minute saying that there is anything wrong with more conceptual work - I really like what Karina came up with in Inistiogue and what you did with that Ladies Island "painting of a painting of a painting". But ultimately, I believe that if the artist's goal is portrayal of the "light key" as experienced by him/her, then there is no option but to paint plein air- there is not other way.

I don't believe that is true of other genres, whether that be abstraction, expressionism or even traditional landscape painting (based mainly on value/tonal variation of local colour rather than studied observation). It is possible that the artist working in a more conceptual manner is inspired by what he/she experiences outdoors, but I feel that such artists are just as likely to come up with equally inspired work in the peace and quiet of the studio.

Hopefully, others come in on this one, Kevin. And thanks for dropping by today. I went home cold and wet! Isn't plein air in Ireland great fun!
I don't make any distinction between open air and studio work. There is light in the studio too. My studio work influences my open air work and vice versa.
The Impressionists and others did the light thing and I'm not for a minute saying there is anything wrong with that. Monet, that innovative short-sighted artist was very good at what he did and I bow in his direction. However, we've been handed a baton and owe it to them to move on. We can stay in the stadium and do a lap or we can head for the gates, or the sky, or tunnel into the track.
More analogies, I'll have to stop writing late at night.
Anyway as I said above; light is a given. We all struggle with it no matter the style. For me it's a means to an end and the most important light is the one in the work.

Patrick, you're right about different ways of looking at things around you. It is so interesting to look at the world through the filters of the particular work that is obsessing you at that moment. (I remember once looking at the sound of a train I was travelling in but that's another story...)
Right on! They have produced some very interesting artists "on the edge".
What is that song, Paddy you'd know, with the lyrics; "Don't push me cause I'm close to the edge"? My kids thought I was making it up.
Enjoy Paul. Have "Gauguin's Skirt" if you ever want to read it.
Looks like I'm outnumbered here so far, but c'est la vie! I agree that there is an awful lot of poor "representational" art out there purporting to be done en plein air. Whether it is or not is irelevant, bad art is bad art! But I'm always a bit concerned by an often expressed view, especially by art critics, that everything today that is not "representational" is an extension of what went before and is inherently better as a result. Bad art is bad art regardless of genre and there is plenty of it out there.

I have a wide interest in art, even though my own area of specialisation is much narrower, much the same as I have a wide interest in music, but perhaps a preference for blues.

Oh and BTW, unless I'm completely wrong (which is always possible, if infrequent!), Monet only had trouble with his eyes in his old age, by which time he was confined to painting large canvases of waterlilies, many of which on close inspection look unfinished, presumably as a result of poor sight (I think he had cataracts).

Anyway that's it from me.
Can the light key not be replaced with the colour key as colour is effected by light,and if you get the right colour you reflect the light at the time. This can also be reflected in an abstracted version of the original. Your sense of vision can have an effect on what you produce, but as long as others see where you are coming from then you have succeded. A painting started outdoors can some times improve with reworking, in another fashion.
I think I agree with everything you say, Patrick, if I understand correctly. Firstly, the term "light key" is something which came out of a plein air movement started by Charles Hawthorne and developed further by Henry Hensche in Provincetown, USA. I like it because I think the music analogy is very good. Basically, it does means getting the colours right, because the colour of the light changes the colour of everything else.

It also addresses the often stated desire for a painting to be harmonious. Many artists pre-tone the canvas and leaves patches showing through in the finished painting to achieve this. While this works to some extent, if the pre-toning is chosen to reflect the colour of the light, it is nowhere as effective as reading what you see before you correctly, because nature always produces an harmonious scene.

Regarding what you do to it when you get back to the studio, my view is simply that it's your painting so you can do what you want with it. So if the artist decides to make the trees red and the sky purple, that's fine by me. It probably helps if you have some conceptual reason for doing so, but plain fun is OK too! Personally I like the work of some artists, who can "abstract" to a point where objects are no longer decipherable, while still capturing the "light key".

The reason I came in on this is simply that I completely disagree with any suggestion that artists working in a more representational genre are in some way inferior to those who work in a more conceptual way. Even the title of the thread suggests this. As far as I'm concerned they are both quite different things and can be appreciated equally when really well executed.



Patrick Brennan said:
Can the light key not be replaced with the colour key as colour is effected by light,and if you get the right colour you reflect the light at the time. This can also be reflected in an abstracted version of the original. Your sense of vision can have an effect on what you produce, but as long as others see where you are coming from then you have succeded. A painting started outdoors can some times improve with reworking, in another fashion.
I do not think that representional artists are inferior to other types of artist, as some of my most difficult pictuers have been totaly representional.
I was about to make the same point, Patrick.
I think we should not infer things that aren't said.

Firstly, the term "light key" is something which came out of somebody, probably but not necessarily a visual artist, in the mists of time putting the words “light” and “key” together.

Secondly, nowhere in this discussion have I suggested that representational works are inferior to more conceptual ones. The title of the thread refers to my struggle with light and I talk only about my work. Yes, it’s all about me me me. You excel at what you do, Michael, and it would be wrong of me to denigrate your or anybody else’s subject matter.
Ok I did refer to Monet at one stage. As you can see from this painting, the artist was clearly short-sighted. Warning, sense of humour needed to view this.

I'm doing a life drawing workshop in Newtownbarry house, so I can't get on line and therefore cannot reply to this. But I agree that's a dreadful painting whoever did it!


Kevin Freeney said:
I was about to make the same point, Patrick.
I think we should not infer things that aren't said.

Firstly, the term "light key" is something which came out of somebody, probably but not necessarily a visual artist, in the mists of time putting the words “light” and “key” together.

Secondly, nowhere in this discussion have I suggested that representational works are inferior to more conceptual ones. The title of the thread refers to my struggle with light and I talk only about my work. Yes, it’s all about me me me. You excel at what you do, Michael, and it would be wrong of me to denigrate your or anybody else’s subject matter.
Ok I did refer to Monet at one stage. As you can see from this painting, the artist was clearly short-sighted. Warning, sense of humour needed to view this.

Do you mean you are concerned with 'form' rather than ‘painting’? - I am not clear.
But if it works for you….why worry about what anyone else is doing or thinking? Text written about plein air often refers to ‘capturing the moment’ which may sound rather trite. But if it referred, say, to the atmosphere conveyed by light (and therefore by colour), to mood and feeling, the intensifying or simplifying qualities of the light etc. etc. would that be more worthwhile? Text about art and painting are poor companions, at best and too often end up in unhelpful pedantry.

In terms of painting en plein air, there are clearly far more artists involved in America than elsewhere. We owe them a debt for the inspiration for the Irish plein air festival, ‘Art in the Open’ to which several individual artists have generously made the journey to contribute. Just like most of the artists on this website, many of the artists in plein air groups in the US are mainly serious amateurs learning and enjoying themselves. But I haven’t seen an ‘orgy of banality and mediocrity without any substance’ referred to. As has been conceded - in which artform have Americans not also excelled? If some artists vie for selection for sponsored plein air painting events and this tends to a populist style, that doesn't have to be the rule here any more than it is by any means the whole story over there. Regarding mediocrity, look around; the USA has no monopoly on it any more than Europe has on good taste, sincerity or originality. That notion was scotched way back in 1776.

As for plein air painting, we can each take what we want from it. For me, it is an equivalent to life-drawing, chiefly an exercise in accurate colour assessment, value judgement and in experimenting with the application of paint in trying to respond to the textures and shapes of landscape and I enjoy it largely because I can go out at any time, with nothing in particular in mind and always find something to take my interest to engage some painting problems. It is surely not a movement or an ism, just an approach to figurative painting; it is a method of working, a discipline, and a pastime and there are no rules except those we set for ourselves. We work outdoors alone or sociably as part of a group, as we prefer, or stay in the studio; each to his or her own.

As Van Gogh said, "As practice makes perfect, I cannot but make progress; each drawing one makes, each study one paints, is a step forward.” And regardless of whatever anyone else is doing, be it observing the natural light, or with eyes shut to better see the truth, a genius or up to my neck in an orgy of banality, in Texas or Tahiti, the only person who can make me less mediocre is myself.
Since my somewhat tongue in cheek previous post, I've been thinking a bit more about why I paint plein air. Undoubtedly a large part of it is because I am intensely drawn to what varying sunlight does to the local colour of objects and how it is perceived by the human eye. But I have become increasingly more aware that my environment and how it impacts on me also affects how I paint. Consequently, a blissful day spent in glorious sunshine down around Hook Head as opposed to a wet and windy Arthurstown will result in paintings which don't just differ in terms of the quality of the portrayed light, but also by the handling of the paint, brushwork, etc. That may be leaning towards expressionism to some extent, because it is as much about how I feel as it is about the actual scene, but it is something which still requires being there rather than in the relative comfort of the studio. I painted on the street a couple of times over the last week to try to persuade passers by to visit my exhibition in the nearby gallery. Friday in particular turned into a particularly miserable wet and windy afternoon, but I persisted. The resulting painting is dark and brooding and only partly reflective of what I actually saw, but I think perhaps stronger for that - must post it here.

I agree with Tony above regarding the analogy between life drawing and plein air work. In both cases the artist gets more from the experience when he/she responds in some way to what's in front them, rather than trying to do a faithful rendering of the subject (impossible in a limited time anyway). To that extent, the resulting paintings are as much about the artist as they are about the subject matter. How far one pushes that is largely a matter of personal preference, not necessarily better or worse, just different.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Website Sponsor

Notes

Making the most of your profile page

Created by Plein Eire Administrator Jan 24, 2011 at 10:36am. Last updated by Plein Eire Administrator Jan 28, 2015.

Notes

Created by Plein Eire Administrator Jan 12, 2010 at 2:18am. Last updated by Plein Eire Administrator Jun 1, 2012.

Posting Artwork on Plein Eire

Created by Plein Eire Administrator Jul 15, 2010 at 1:33am. Last updated by Plein Eire Administrator Jan 10, 2012.

© 2021   Created by Plein Eire Administrator.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service