Written by Rita Goldner.
In the near future I have two trips planned, one a mini family reunion in the cool mountains, and one with my kids and grandkids at a lake. Both times I’ll bring my little plein air set-up: a folding chair, sun umbrella, paints and brushes, a watercolor tablet and a small folding easel. I’m anticipating feeding my other passion (besides writing and illustrating children’s books).
For me, nothing beats exploring nature, with either a two-hour painting, or a quick pencil sketch in the middle of a hike. In my obsession, I coax other people to join me, especially those who say they have no ability. I fully intend to push a paintbrush into the hand of each grandchild old enough to know which is the fuzzy end.
I’ve painted outdoors a lot, and taught a few beginner classes, so I’ve condensed the process into a few basic tips, to make it quick and enjoyable (One doesn’t want to spend more than two hours, because the shadows will have shifted)
2. Divide your canvas/paper into thirds lengthwise and widthwise, with a big tic-tac-toe. Pick one of the four intersections to put your focal point, and this area will have the darkest darks and the lightest lights next to each other.
3. Make 3-4 small (2-inch) thumbnail sketches, just pencil, no paint, to break up the space into interesting shapes. Have five to seven shapes, and they should fit together like puzzle pieces. See my example of 5 shapes. Don’t think of a shape as a “thing”, but as a patch that’s different in value from the surrounding patches. (Value means light or dark.)
4. Make the light/dark patches form a balanced abstract pattern, leading the eye around.
5. Have a limited palette of 3-4 colors, and fill in your big shapes. Later you can break some of them down into smaller shapes, but keep them close in value. Have some hard edges and some soft blended edges.
6. Vary brushstroke size and direction.
Most of the readers of these blogs are already expressing themselves is a creative way, writing. So it’s not a big stretch of imagination to think you’ll have fun plein air painting, too. A passer-by once asked me if I got a better finished product painting outdoors or at home and I said “Who cares? This is so much fun I won’t stop even if it turns out bad.”
Note: I belong to the Arizona Plein Air Painters, and they welcome non-members and prospective members to their paint-outs. The upcoming paintouts are on their event page: http://www.arizonapleinair.com/paint-outs/
Rita’s blog and website can be found here.
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