Swiss Plein Air Demo

Here are a couple of images and a short video from the plein air landscape painting course I did in the little village of Les Plans above Bex in Switzerland.

I was teaching solo and didn’t get a ton of my own work done. That said, it’s a great little spot for painting as there is a ton of diverse subject matter in such a short distance from the hotel where we stay.

Plein air painting of cows in a field in Switzerland.

Cows by a Barn, Switzerland. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape painting of a house above Les Plans, Switzerland.

Above Les Plans. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

We’ll perhaps to do another course next summer as well. And we discussed an ‘extreme plein air’ course in the winter, with snowboards, where the students have to sign a gazillion waivers protecting us from responsibility when they die. Stay tuned for more information.

I tried to film a painting demo but was drowned out by the cowbells, here is the first fifteen minutes where I discuss selecting a view and setting up:

Below is a video of a band that played at our hotel called Le Sirop D’la Rue. I thought I would throw in a plug for them as the music was great:

On the way home to Zagreb we stopped in the small Italian town of Chioggia, on the southern end of the Venetian lagoon. Edgar Payne did some beautiful paintings there in the 1920s and I had always wanted to see it. The orange sails are mostly gone (we saw a couple), but it’s an amazingly picturesque little town for painters. It has three canals, like Venice, but two are ‘working’ canals, full of fishing boats and the whole place has a terrific amount of varying subject matter in a very small area. There are cars in the town too, so you can park in front of your hotel.

Plein air painting of a cafe in Chioggia, Italy.

Cafe in Chioggia. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of fishing boats in Chioggia, Italy.

Fishing Boats, Chioggia. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

2015 Plein Air Painting Workshops

Plein air landscape painting near Trevi, Umbria.

(Actual painting locations may vary).

I’ve put up information for my two 2015 plein air landscape painting workshops on my workshop page. One is in Europe and the other is in the US.

The first workshop of the year will be in Les Plans, Switzerland from the 9th to the 15th of June, 2015. The total fee for the course will be 1600chf and will include food, accommodation, six hours a day of painting lessons and panels for you to paint on. For the rest of the materials a list will be made available.

For further information or to book a place, please contact Alan Lawson at [email protected].

The next two workshops will be in the Greater Boston area (specific dog-friendly location still to be decided) from August 28 to the 30th.

These courses are being organized by Leo Mancini Hresko, so please contact him directly for further information or to book a spot: [email protected].

Update: Both Boston courses have filled.

Plein Air Alpine Sketches

Plein air landscape painting in the Alps can be some of the most rewarding art creation anywhere. When the weather is good, the majesty of the mountains is just stunning. The Swiss have also done a good job of keeping their (rather unfortunate) modern architecture concentrated in pockets, usually in the valleys.

Below are my plein air landscape sketches from a week of teaching a workshop with the Alpine Atelier in Gryon, Switzerland.

Plein air landscape from Les Plans, in the Swiss Alps.

Above Les Plans. 30 x 40 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape of a logging road in Switzerland.

Logs Along a Road, Bex. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape painting of the Dents du Midi

Dents du Midi Above the Clouds (from Gryon). 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

We had pretty bad weather. The previous sketch is from when we drove up to Gryon to get over the low clouds which sat in our valley for much of the week.

Plein air sketch of a farm in the Swiss Alps.

Buvette de La Ferme, Les Plans. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

We stayed above Bex in the picturesque little village of Les Plans. Above is the farm where we ate everyday on the course.

Plein air landscape painting of a path through the woods.

Path in the Woods. 35 x 25 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air painting of a chalet in Les Plans, Switzerland.

Chalet in Les Plans. 25 x 35 cm, oil on panel.

Painting of Chalets at Gryon

New Chalets, Gryon. 30 x 40 cm, oil on panel.

Painting of cows in the snow.

Cows in the Snow, Les Plans. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

The Alpine landscapes are a real joy to paint when the sun comes out.

Alpine landscape painting from Switzerland.

Utility Poles above Les Plans. 28 x 40 cm, oil on panel.

Plein air landscape painting of the Muveran

Muveran Sketch. 20 x 25 cm, oil on panel.

Unfortunately, the sketch below shows what our valley looked like much of the course. As I mentioned in the last post, difficult conditions can often be more conducive to good painting. Overall I’m pretty happy with the work both I and my students produced over the week.

Painting of a road in the snow.

Road in the Snow, Les Plans. 30 x 40 cm, oil on panel.

(This was my second plein air painting trip to this area of Switzerland. You can see my ‘barn series’ from Gstaad and Saanen in 2009 here).

My car broke down in the little Italian town of Soave on my way home. It also happens to be where they make my favorite white wine. Here is a quick sketch from the rainy morning after.

Plein air sketch of Soave, Italy

Old Walls in Soave. 30 x 40 cm, oil on panel.

Swiss Plein Air Workshop

Here are a few photos from my week of teaching plein air landscape painting in the valley around Les Plans in Switzerland. I was working for the Alpine Atelier based in Gryon.

Plein air landscape painting course in Switzerland

They are very unrepresentative photos as we only had a few hours of sun all week. Most of the time it was low clouds and snow. Nevertheless, the students managed to squeeze out a lot of great work.

Plein air landscape painting in Switzerland

It’s often the case that sparse subject matter produces better work while painting en plein air. In my experience, having too many wonderful views to choose from can be more paralyzing to the painter than struggling with difficult or meager subject matter.

Plein air landscape painting in Switzerland

Update: Here are a couple more off my phone.

Plein Air

Plein Air Fog

I also shot a video of the 40 minute demo I gave on the first day of the course. You can view it below or on my youtube channel:

Painting from a Moving Car

Driving down through Switzerland the other day, we were stuck in traffic for hours in one of the prettier part of the Alps. These are a couple of quick sketches I did from the passenger seat using my cigar box palette.

Alpine Sketch #1. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

Alpine Sketch #2. 20 x 30 cm, oil on panel.

I wanted to mention briefly that my cigar box has a lot of modifications for better functionality, in case anyone wants to try to make their own.

The cigar box palette.

In 1997 I lived in Paris and had a studio in an occupied ex-high school (Pole Pi or something or other was the name. The police took it back after I left and it is now an architectural university). There was a lot of old furniture still laying around the place and I made a large palette out of the back of an old cabinet. That palette is now the base of my cigar box, complete with the old thumb-hole which is now used to hold brushes when I’m taking a break.

I enjoyed that period of my artistic life and like having the memory around.

My old palette at the base.

Normally, cigar box lids are held to the box with paper. I replaced mine with real hinges.

My carpentry skills in all their glory.

The hinges in turn allow a small gap for the metal easel board-holders to slide through and hold the palette. I use a clip to keep the wind from blowing the lid shut.

Hooking a cigar box to a metal tripod easel.

Cigar boxes and prochade boxes are brilliant for the quick set-up times. Often you’ll see a fleeting effect (or a fleeting view, if you’re in stop-and-go traffic), and the speed of setting up and starting to paint becomes important.