Plein air painting on location

  Painting on Location - 'en plein air' 

Plein air painting expresses an unmediated response to a subject. 
It is not simply recording appearance, but the expression of an emotion.


Above:  Painting  in the Chinese Garden.This photograph was taken while "in progress".  
 Completed oil on panel. Oil on panel.  13 x 16 ins




Have you ever noticed how often holiday photos of landscape are disappointing?

It is not that you are a poor photographer.

It is that you see something extraordinary in the landscape before you.

But a camera does not do extraordinary - It simply records what is there without emotion.
You as an artist are driven by emotion.

A clever (and emotional) photographer can use a camera to  create something extraordinary.
Something more than a snapshot. 

I often get a surprise when I take a photograph my painting in front of the landscape it portrays.

In a simple snapshot the  landscape seems very ordinary, and not at all like why I chose to paint it.

Whereas my painting, if it works, is expressionist, full of passion, sometimes even joy.

Painting on Location at Mapua: 


John, Painting on location at Mapua, Tasman Bay, NZ.  January 2012"  
Oil on panel. 8x10 in. The above photograph was taken after the painting was completed.  



To paint the above scene plein air -

  • I began by blocking in the masses with my palette knife. After covering the surface with the initial block in, I then worked from the sky. through the ranges, and painted the major darks of the wharf. Then I moved to the sea beneath the wharf. All this was easy: Simple masses in clean colour.
  • The next stage was paintng in the lights of the wharf timbers. Much more acuracy is required for this, as the lights on the dark paint make the form pop. That is, if you get it right. If you don't, then you have to scrape it off, and try again... And again. Whew!

  • There is no point in proceding until the wharf works. Only then can you can paint the reflections. Once the lights are established, then the reflections can echo them. If you do the reflections before the lights are finalised, then you may have to scrape them off and redo. Better to avoid this by following the correct sequence: Paint the form, then the reflection. 

  • Now at last we can paint the figures. All through the painting process people were coming and going. Only John has been a constant. I am fortunate that he has not finished and moved off, as he was the centre of my composition, and the reason I painted the wharf. Otherwise I take it on faith that when I need a figure, someone will turn up  -  and they did.

From memory I painted John first, then the couple at the far end of the wharf, then the seated couple, then the man in the cowboy hat, and his wife. The end of the wharf seemed empty, and the girl in the pink top arrived. Great. In she went. Then the two teenagers beyond John. Then I stopped and took The snapshot. As you can see from the photo there are more figures I could have used. There are more details of the wharf I could have included, but the painting did not require them. It is complete.