A short post with four small plein air sketches from a weekend in Venice in January.
Since the days are so short here in Zagreb (and I’m losing my mornings to language classes), I’ve been trying my hand at plein air nocturnes lately.
Last winter I tried one nocturne of the small bar around the corner from my house. The idea was to sketch the composition in pencil and then begin the lay-in on site. However, for the bulk of the work I had the painting elsewhere and, in the evenings, I would stop and try to memorized the view and then paint later from memory. It was like sight-sizing from a block away. The idea was based on the quote by Degas about memory drawing:
“If I were to open an academy I would have a five-story building. The model would pose on the ground floor with the first-year students. The most advanced students would work on the fifth floor.”
This year I’m more prepared. These new clip-on LED lights work very well, and have a much cooler light than the ones you could buy, years ago, when I last tried plein air landscape painting at night. The brand I’m using is Mighty Bright from Santa Barbara, CA and I have the two pronged ones they make for orchestra conductors. (Edit: As Jerry Campbell commented, these lights can be slightly blue. I also found myself compensating to knock down the oranges. Pushing the light right up to the canvas warms it up a bit, but if anyone one has a suggestion for a more neutral plein-air-at-night lighting solution, I’d love to hear it).
A second set of lights would be great as I don’t get enough light consistently across the panels and have to move the light to where I’m working.
Painting in the snow at night can be really cold. I wrote a post last winter on keeping warm, which you can read here.
More to come. In the meantime, here are a couple more from the heavy snows we’ve had this month in Zagreb.
Bukovac was born in a small town on the coast south of Dubrovnik to an Italian father and Croatian mother. He studied in Paris with Cabanel and worked in Zagreb, Belgrade and Prague. His life story is quite interesting and included a stint in a reform school in New York and painting trains in Peru (more here).
While famous for his large Salon-style pieces and portraits, he also painted a lot of beautiful plein air sketches.
This nude reminded me of his teacher’s famous painting:
Miroslav Kraljević was only 27 when he died of tuberculosis. He studied in Munich and Vienna. (He kinda looks like Valdemar Lethin).
Unfortunately the above image quality is rather poor. Below is a great detail of the dog from Croatian painter Valentino Radman’s blog:
Josip Račić also died very young, only 23, but is considered one of the most important modern Croatian painters. He was part of the ‘Munich School’ with Kraljević and a couple of others.
Other interesting historic Croatian painters are Čikoš Sesija, Robert Auer, Mato Celestin Medović, and Mirko Rački.
Below is a short video of fellow plein air painter Ben Fenske painting a quick (2 hour?) oil sketch of the road to the farmhouse where I’ve lived in the summers for the last few years.
I filmed the plein air video a couple of years ago and found the footage today while organizing old files on my computer. A couple of people have written to me asking about Ben’s technique, so here it is in all it’s badly-color-graded glory.
Update: Some people were having problems watching the video, so I uploaded a new version.
I thought I should briefly mention a couple of exhibitions I have on this month. The first is a number of small sketches at Ann Long Fine Art in Charleston, SC and the exhibition webpage is here. The second is the Converge show organized by Allison Malafronte in New York. It opens this Friday and the website for the exhibition is here.
Here are a few recent sketches from a trip to Lago Maggiore with Ben Fenske. We went up to the Simplon Pass for a day, but never made it back as the weather was uncooperative.
Here is a short time-lapse video of the above sketch:
Here are some of the plein air landscape sketches from Bordeaux and Chianti painted the last month. We stayed in the little village of Pujols near Saint-Émilion (Bordeaux) in France, and then in Chianti near Tavarnelle val di Pesa.
My liver will need some time to recover.
The Dordogne east of Bordeaux is especially interesting for plein air landscape painting as it is unusual to have such strong tidal effects so far inland.
Saint-Émilion is a beautiful little city for plein air painting. We took the workshop students there a couple of times with great success.
Here are a couple of plein air landscape sketches of the annual grape harvest, or Vendemmia, in the Chianti region of Tuscany. It was interesting to paint the workers en plein air as they moved quickly up the vineyard rows. I would paint the vineyard row ahead of them, then move row to row to paint the grape harvesters as they worked.
I’ll post the rest of the Chianti plein air landscape paintings later in the week.
As a follow up to the ‘into and out of effects’ post below, here is a short video of a plein air landscape sketch from this week. It was painting as the light moved from late afternoon into sunset into evening.
(Apologies for the quality, I need to upgrade the slow-as-molasses-in-winter netbook I do all this with while traveling).
The great thing about working from life, be it in landscapes or portraits, is that as effects or expressions change you can either add them or leave them. Many painters coming to landscapes from studio work find the changing effects challenging. In their studios everything is controlled. The trick is to see the constant mutations in nature as a blessing. Leave what was better before, add what improves.
I find this especially true in portraiture, where working from life allows you to capture fleeting effects such as the moment the sitter’s face lights up when a loved one enters the room. You also end up with a likeness that expresses a number of different facets of the sitter’s personality, as witnessed over the week of sittings.
In the painting video above, the final work becomes a montage of the best effects from the various changing light and cloud positions over the two hour session.
(Here is the final image):
I’ll be teaching a week long workshop in the Swiss Alps next Spring. The dates are March 23 to 30 and the cost is 1500 Swiss francs for everything. Sign up via the Alpine Atelier website here.
Here are a few of the sketches I did the past two weeks in Southern Croatia. The Dalmatian coast is stunningly beautiful. We had beautiful weather, the food and wine are great, and it’s still relatively inexpensive as far as European beach towns in August go.
Dubrovnik is especially beautiful, though the crowds in August are not for the faint of heart.
There are a few more that still need a lot of work. I’ll post an update when they’re finished.