Monica Burrow
Original Art from BC and Beyond

Blog - A Palette of Ideas - on being an artist

(posted on 18 Jun 2017)

I have not painted this way much at all over my many years of making art. Last year I joined some of my fellow Guild members outdoors to paint, but not understanding the way it worked, I brought some of the right stuff, some of the wrong. Although it was productive, I painted from photos working on projects on the go already. Yes I painted outdoors, but not what I would call plein air. A few weeks ago I returned from a week of daily plein air painting. This time, I had researched my setup and took what was recommended to me. My husband rejigged an old painting box found at the local thrift store with a camera tripod also found there.

It worked really well. He had thought of everything and, as a consequence, I was free to concentrate on painting. Over 5 days I learned that painting en plein air is both wonderful and challenging. It freed me from photos, enslaved me to the wind and the sun, and improved my ability to see composition in a subject as I quickly weeded out the dead ends and the things that would take away from the final image.

The first day involved having to think about every work item's position, and every brush stroke. On the 2nd day the setup time was cut to a fraction of the 1st day's, and after getting out my viewfinder (an old small mat) I was off and painting. Values quickly became a challenge in a way they are not indoors. The wind and sun dried the paint. Various tiny creatures volunteered to trek across my work, and stroll through my piles of acrylics. I took more risks with colour.

The image developed quickly with the large shapes laid in. The changing light was not as much of a factor as I had thought. My memory of how the scene looked at the start was not as difficult to recall as I had feared. With the composition to hang everything on, it became natural to simplify and look at the overall much more than if I had a photo to go back to for detail.

Eventually I plan to use the five pieces I returned home with as studies for studio paintings and will post them. For now they are percolating in my mind and waiting for other projects to be finished.