Tag Archives | Plein air painting

From beginner to skilled Artist – In easy steps – I’ll show you how!

What is the ONE BIG IDEA – that HIDDEN SECRET, you need to know, in order to start that mysterious journey from being a sometime sketcher, to a skilled artist. It has nothing to do with shaky lines, or lots of rubbing out, or even lack of confidence, or not understanding colours, or problems with perspective.

our local park in oils

our local park in oils 10″ x 12″ on board.

Sure – these will all need to be mastered step by step, little by little, but what is the one big thing that sets apart beginners work from skilled work.

I remember how infuriating it was when I started to draw and paint, I was so proud of my work, and just couldn’t understand why it didn’t appeal to the ‘more experienced’ members of our Art Club, and it failed to sell, time after time. I couldn’t see what I’d done wrong, It looked perfect to me, and my close friends all offered their congratulations, telling me how wonderful my work was.

Why wouldn’t anyone tell me the honest truth? Perhaps they were afraid to put me off art, perhaps they didn’t want to lose their ‘artistic’ friend, they didn’t want to cause a scene, maybe they didn’t want to be seen as critical.

Perhaps I never asked the Question?

Well now, many years later, I find myself in the position of ‘a more experienced’ art club member, having worked hard to acquire the skills, little by little, step by step, I am now able, but ‘not so willing’ to offer my  critique. I now understand why no one wanted to tell me what I was doing wrong. Sure – If I am asked a direct question – I will answer it as helpfully and truthfully as I can. After all, what learners need – is to know the next step. Which one big issue needs their attention. This is THE HIDDEN SECRET.

I was actually incredibly lucky, and I did have one critic, who knew exactly what was wrong, I would e-mail all my sketches and paintings, one at a time, to my mother, an experienced art teacher, who had been the Head of Art at a large school, for many years. She was always honest with me, because she knew I wanted the truth spelled out clearly.

Sometimes it was brutal, but on every occasion, after a few minutes digesting her words of wisdom, I knew she was right. She could see and understand my problems. The more I tried, and subjected myself to critique, the better my work became, till eventually, I rarely received ‘brutal’ critiques.

So to sum up the HIDDEN SECRET is, to find an experienced artist or art teacher who you can trust and respect as a mentor, someone who will be honest with you, even if its brutal. You will need to ask the Question, clearly, What have I done wrong here? What one big area or thing should I work on? ie: drawing skills, tonal values, composition, colour choices, etc. then go away and learn all you can about the problem area, look for help on You Tube, and Google, if you don’t understand, go back and ask the question again, and practice over and over again until your mentor gives you your next problem area to work on.

If you find the right mentor and ask them the right question, they will be glad to help you.

You can forget all the books and DVD’s – they have far too much info in them. You just need one big thing or idea, to work on. Not a whole book full! So go out there, join your local art group, and ask questions, and keep asking questions, until you find your mentor. Good Luck!  

Here’s a blog you can learn a huge amount from, by in inspirational and motivational artist. Adebanji Alade  Enjoy!

using a pochade box

using a pochade box for oil painting.

News from the Studio

My lack of regular blog articles is not due to idleness, its due to lack of spare time, I know that’s no excuse, but here’s what I’ve been up to, I’ve begun oil painting, and have created nearly twenty 10″ x 12″ oil paintings on board, mainly working out doors on location, ‘en plein air’ as the French say. My pochade box is serving me well, and I have already modified it to make it easier to use.  I have a lot to learn so I have found my mentor, (see article above), who has a wealth of ‘plein air’ painting experience, and likes to go out frequently. I have also been experimenting with larger watercolours using 1/2 imperial size paper ( 15″ x 22″)  usually rough surface, 200 or 300 lbs in weight. I am loving this experimentation, both in oils and watercolours, and look forward to a busy summer of painting ahead.

Also I’ve been planning for my Open Studio, which will happen here on August 13th & 14th, 20th & 21st, 27th, 28th & 29th.  More details in my next blog post. Don’t miss it, put your e-mail address in the box to get my posts in your inbox.

Also click here for a list of my exhibitions in 2016

Painting the Norfolk Broads – A forgotten National Park, or an Artist’s Paradise?

Mousehold Heath, Norwich - John Crome

Mousehold Heath, Norwich – John Crome

The Norfolk Broads are renowned for their early morning mists, beautiful lakes and rivers (known as broads), windmills, trees, wildlife, boats and sailing craft of many shapes and sizes, boathouses, low bridges, old stone ruins, and a few human ruins, sorry – I mean artists, setting up their easels all over the place to capture some of this magical atmosphere.

Of course we’re not the first to notice these natural beauties, The Norwich School of Art was the first in this country, founded in 1803 and made famous by John Crome, John Sell Cotman and Joseph Stannard, to name a few. Their works went on to influence the artists of the French Impressionist school.

Atmosphere is what we as artists are trying to capture in paint. To accurately record the scene before our eyes, isn’t inherently difficult, even a camera can do that quite well. But the artist seeks to capture the ‘atmosphere’ which attracted him or her to the scene. That might be the early morning mist, the sound of the ducks, the way the light is filtered through the tree branches, the smell of the woodland, and all the other senses that the artist is experiencing.

It’s not surprising then why I and so many other artists prefer to work out doors, directly from nature.  It is also no surprise to learn that paintings and sketches made on a rainy or misty day, perhaps in the snow, or beneath a magical evening sky or in the early morning light, very often manage to capture something special about that atmosphere in a way that studio work rarely does.  For the same reasons working from photographs is almost never successful.

View from How Hill, Norfolk

View from How Hill, Norfolk. This is the highest hill in Norfolk.

So you might think we have the best job in the world? Visiting interesting places, checking out stunning scenery, painting until the light fades away, well yes and no. That is the creative part of the role, and it has many excitements and disappointments, not least  when a few spots of unexpected rain can ruin an hour and a half’s work in watercolour, or a sudden gust of wind carries away the easel, complete with firmly affixed wet painting, requiring a scramble over the rocks or a dip in the cold algae covered lake to retrieve said masterpiece. Of course, this is all forgotten when the next attempt is a success.

The other part of the ‘job’ is less creative, and more ‘sales and marketing’, a subject which doesn’t come naturally to many creative people. So it’s, framing and mount cutting, cataloging and pricing, entering into competitions, talking to galleries, planning exhibitions, placing work in Internet shops, writing detailed descriptions, packing and sending paintings, web site maintenance and writing blog articles, such as this. All very interesting and it has to be done, but still it keeps us from getting out there and being creative as much as we’d like.

mount cutting

Cutting mounts and double mounts

To follow my continuing story, do make sure you put your e-mail address in the box on this page. It will keep you up to date and ensure you don’t miss my next posting.

To see earlier blog posts – click on this photo.

 

News from the Studio – Sun and Rain, Wexford Ireland, and Open Studios

What a Summer it’s been! Hot dry days and cold rainy days in equal measure!

But this isn’t a weather report, so here is some of my recent work, from my visit to Wexford, Ireland and then some ‘Open Studio’ news.

My visit to Wexford Ireland was to take part in “Art In The Open“. This is an annual event which attracts up to 200 artists from all over the world. Each day has it’s own chosen venue, a town or a harbour, and everyone arrives and sets up their easels, for a day’s ‘plein air painting’, as the title hints, Art in the Open. I like to get started early, to get ‘one in the bag’ so to speak, in case rain arrives later on. Here are some works in watercolour:

Stables, Wells House

Stables, Wells House

 

view from Hook Head

view from Hook Head

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

farm in wexford

farm in county wexford

You can see the variety of subjects chosen, I especially loved the farm buildings and the old homestead in this painting, which I did on the last day, which also brought warm dry weather.  It was most enjoyable to meet up with the other artists, in the evenings and to swap tales and experiences etc. Many are household names in their own countries.

What lovely friendly and sociable people and I even sold one work ‘off the easel’ to a cafe owner. The exhibition and dinner at the end of the week was brilliant and I found myself cementing long term friendships and promising to return.

 

My Open Studio was held over the three weekends ending on August Bank Holiday. I shared the studio of local artist, Andrea Chappell and we had the pleasure of welcoming over 80 guests, many of whom were unknown to us, and we both made sufficient sales to encourage us to consider holding open studios again next year.

some Open Studio works

some Open Studio works

Here is a view of some works on display, we had approx 40 framed works, and another 40 mounted unframed works, plus some prints and greetings cards, so something for everyone.

Open Studio

Open Studio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between visitors, I managed to paint this watercolour view of our ‘Cabin Studio’, as a gift to Andrea, for her hospitality.

Have you been to Wexford in Ireland? or even visited an Artists Open Studio? I’d like to hear your stories.

Why do artists like to paint in the open air – in all weathers?

OK So I’m off to ‘Art in the Open’.

art in the open

art in the open

Probably the largest plein air festival in Europe! It takes place in Wexford, in the Irish Republic for a mad week of even madder painting, in all weathers, and accompanied by approx. 200 other artists, from beginners to professionals, using all mediums in all sizes and all styles.

The people of Wexford know what to expect, as this is the 8th year of the festival. Activities will include, six ‘paintouts’ in places all over Wexford county, painting workshops, life drawing sessions, evening social activities, including a barbeque and a dinner, a charity ‘Quickdraw’ event in Wexford Town, a lecture, an exhibition at the end of the week and awards and prize givings, for those lucky enough to attract the judges attention.

So why do we do it?

Because we hope the weather will be dry and warm and the locations colourful and picturesque. However, this is southern Ireland, where it rains a lot, it’s not called ‘the emerald isle; for nothing. Very often, its those rainy, windswept and stormy paintings that convey the most exciting atmospherics, which buyers just fall in love with and it’s the same few ‘hardy’ artists who manage to capture those effects so splendidly. So I look forward to painting with some of these ‘hardy’ professionals, in ‘all’ or almost all weathers, and hoping some of those stormy atmospherics will be captured in my work. You can be the judge of my success or otherwise, when I post some of the results.

What kit will I take?

my 'plein air' studio

my ‘plein air’ studio

I’ll be working in watercolours and acrylics. So I’ll pack a metal sketching easel, a folding chair, which I can carry on my shoulder, (I know I should stand up to paint, but I can’t stand all day) and a small lightweight folding table.

For watercolours, I’ll include a small drawing board, water bottle, folding cup, a pallette, tubes of paints, lots of 1/4 imperial ‘rough’ finish paper, some bulldog clips, various pencils and pens including dip pens, Indian Ink, masking fluid, and last but not least, my four best watercolour brushes.

For acrylics, I’ll take lots of canvas boards, ready primed for use, tubes of acrylic paints, palette knives, a selection of brushes, I reserve only for acrylics, a stay-wet palette, spray bottle, texture gell and slow drying medium, varnish, kitchen rolls, and an apron.

I’ll also take for the exhibition, some frames, and pre-cut mount boards, point gun to secure works in the frames, tapes, hanging cord, labels, and a screwdriver. Then of course, I’ll need a sun hat, sun cream, warm weather clothes, wet weather clothes, cold weather clothes, what have I forgotten, oh yes, smart clothes for the exhibition and the dinner, and a pocket camera and sketchbook. to record material for future use, including writing my next blog post!

my outdoor set up

my outdoor set up

 

I’m glad I’m not flying, and having to carry all that gear.

Do you paint with a group or in a class? It would be nice to hear your thoughts.