Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Plein Air

I am filled with admiration for artists who work plein air, no matter what the medium. There is an immediacy, an urgency to the work, which is unmistakeable. There is a consistency to a body of work, a unity of approach when the palette is placed on a diet, which is deeply satisfying. Artists who work both plein air and in studio often produce art that is quite different in each setting, to the extent even of subject matter. The studio still life paintings of Patrick Martin, when compared with his plein air landscapes, could almost be by a different artist; though both styles produce highly accomplished objects of desire.
Richard McKinley is eloquent on the subject in his Pastel Journal blog. “I have wondered (all plein air painters must at one time or another) why I go through it—lugging my equipment around, standing in the sun, getting eaten by insects, and fighting the constantly changing light. But, after experiencing the allure of natural light, the sensitivity gained from a tactile relationship, and the differences in my work because of these, I've become totally hooked!”
The recent (February 2010) Pastel Journal piece on Aaron Schuerr starkly demonstrates to what lengths a dedicated (I almost said fanatical) plein airist may go. Aaron says that he has to switch to oils in winter for one simple reason - gloves. When he tried a pastel study on location, he couldn’t get the sticks back in the box when he had finished, as he had become so cold! Aaron in the snow in his boiler suit and balaclava would frighten a moose - and I hope a bear!
Then there is summer plein air painting. Each year the little town of Magné, in the Marais Poitevin in Southwest France, holds a summer plein air paint-off. The photograph above shows the other extreme to which artists will go! My thanks to Joel Berthonneau for the picture. Joel’s photos can be found on TrekEarth at this link. If the artist cares to identify himself....

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