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.
I’ve been painting the fleeting light of Southern Croatia for the last couple of weeks and thinking a lot about painting into, and out of, effects.
Landscape paintings usually depict one moment or effect of light. When painting outside, light effects change the whole time the artist is working. Part of the responsibility of the artist is to decide which of the various positions of the sun and shadows will be in the final image. Furthermore, when it’s the painter’s first time somewhere, it can be difficult to visualize perfectly what will happen with the light over the course of a multi-hour plein air painting session.
For the last few years, the light effect that has most interested me is the high sun at midday. My subjects are also often north-facing, and thus back-lit. It’s usually an easy route to take for plein air painting. The number of hues is greatly reduced and the values and shapes become more important. Though it would seem the opposite, I find it easier to get an effect of sunlight or heat, than working with the sun behind me. Most of my favorite historic plein air works are back-lit (it’s hard to think of a good Corot, for example, that isn’t). Also, the light changes very slowly in the midday hours. I’ve worked for up to six hours straight on a midday painting where the shadows and overall effect didn’t change a great deal.
When I first started painting outdoors, however, I really loved the late evening light. Charles Cecil taught me much of what I know about landscape painting, and his own favorite subject is the orange light of the Tuscan evenings, or ‘Golden Hour’. The problem with late light is that the effect lasts only a few minutes. In order to paint a sunset or sunrise painting, you either have to work for only 15 minutes a day, or paint into the effect. Painting into the effect simply means as the afternoon light turns to the golden evening light, the effect will become more and more what you’re after. (Presuming, of course, that the evening light is the desired effect. If the afternoon light is your subject then you’re painting out of the effect).
The trick to painting into an effect is to work on the drawing until the desired effect is present, and then change the colors and shadow shapes at the end. For painting out of the effect the opposite is true. You start with color notes and the shadow shapes, and then polish the drawing as everything changes.
In the sketch of Korcula at sunset above, you can see the blue around the palm tree from when I did all the drawing with the afternoon light. I then changed the whole color scheme when the sun set. I’ll later polish things up in the studio when the paint dries.
Understanding the mechanics of changing light and how to deal with it is an important part of plein air painting.
Here are some of my plein air landscape paintings of Ireland from ‘Europe’s biggest plein air painting festival’, the Art in the Open plein air landscape painting festival in Wexford. It was my first time in a painting festival like this and I had a good time.
I’ve painted the Irish landscape before, so I knew what I was getting into weather-wise. Last time I worked a lot from inside the car. This time I bought a full waterproof kit and just painted through the showers. Both methods have their drawbacks.
Irish landscape paintings can be quite a challenge with the radically changing weather. The Irish landscape is stunning though and I look forward to going back to AITO next year.
A short post on brushes.
Cornelissen in London makes the best bristle brushes I’ve ever owned. They finally have an online store which is great, as getting to central London is a pain and their staff aren’t particularly friendly (I got in trouble there once for checking unfamiliar turpentine brands for mineral spirits and the clerk thought I was getting high). The series 44 are the ones I use. They are more expensive than other brands but they are built like tanks and last forever. Mine usually get worn down to a triangle shape after years of use.
For sables, Zecchi has the best quality brushes I’ve found. The red-handled ‘cat-tongue’ sables are very useful for drawing with your paint. They are also pricey (though cheaper than much of the competition), but will last a long time if properly looked after.
I get asked a lot about brush care. I clean mine about once a week with soap and cold water. In the meantime I keep them in the freezer at night so they wont dry out.
Bristle brushes I wrap individually with a little piece of paper towel to pull out the water and keep the shape. Sables I leave a bit of soap in and make a point with the hairs so they dry with a sharp tip.
Here a few sketches from this week in Zagreb. The weather has been beautiful here.