Thursday, August 13, 2009

August Sunset, Hammonasset Plein Air Landscape Painting

copyright, 2009, Jan Blencowe, Connecticut, USA

8x10, acrylic on canson board, sealed w/ archival varnish, unframed

view this painting on my website

$300 + $10 sh/h/ins


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Today you have a chance to see an idea go from plein air sketch, below, to plein air painting, above. This scene might also become a larger studio work at some point too, created from both of these on the spot references.

I went back to paint this simple scene because I liked the sketch so much. Perhaps that seems odd since it's a very simple scene. I think the contrast of light and dark is what fascinated me about it. The painting with the sunset colors was done about an hour later than the sketch and I shifted my gaze to the right and zoomed in more on the shrubby stuff on the dune.

This kind of plein study is absolutely essential to painting successful landscapes in the studio. Even with digital cameras, photoshop and computer screens I still don't believe you can paint a landscape that has the ring of authenticity and truth to it without out going outside and observing, sketching and doing some plein air painting. Copying a photo, even interpreting a photo, still produces a painting that is superficial in emotional content unless you've had a first hand encounter with nature through observation and drawing/painting.

Oddly, I often hear artists complain about plein air painting because of the heat/cold, bugs, sun, pollen, walking involved, wind, critters and a host of other natural elements that are present in the great outdoors that disturb them. Then I wonder why they paint the landscape at all, they obviously don't love it or have any passion for it. I also suspect that they don't spend much time outdoors at all, because all those things, sun, wind, bugs etc. are out there when you hike,bike, play golf, picnic, garden etc. So if you don't enjoy nature why paint it? Why not focus on still life, the figure or abstracts? It's like someone with an aversion to animals concentrating on painting pet portraits! Curious.

I understand that if you're like me, your very best work is done in the studio, but painting en situ, experiencing nature and bringing back raw material to work from is fundamental to landscape painting.

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