Monday, April 7, 2008

From 'Starts' to Finish Plein Air Paintings in Two Stages

'Starts' are intentionally unfinished paintings that will be finished later perhaps indoors or even much later during winter months

    These views were beside of each other and painting during a misty rainfall under trees. 

Westeremden, The Netherlands

When an artist friend came over t visit from the US, I showed her the coffee table book of a Dutch artist, whose countrymen voted him as their second favorite artist under Rembrandt in 2006. She was so impressed, she asked if we could visit him and his studio. It's a little country and I speak Dutch so within a short time we were packed and on the road toward Groningen, where the classical painters are trained and hang out so to speak. It would be four hour drive to get there so we booked a B&B his wife suggested. This way maybe we could squeeze in some plein air time. It was a phenomenal experience. The museum was having a retrospective of his work--the most I have ever seen in one place. The studio visit turned out to be an invitation to see his whole house where many fo the amazing objects used in his paintings are just a normal part of the interior. We were very inspired and chattered the rest of the day about the works we would start and objects we would be anxious to add ot our studio props.The plein air images shown above were done in one sitting of three hours in Westeremdem, both being 6'' x 8'' , a standard size I keep in my pochade.  The weather conditions posed nimbus clouded skies over us. Eventually it started to rain, but passed quickly. Because of conditons I stayed in the same spot and squeezed in a second painting by turning my view about 40 degrees and changing the composition to a vertical. Since oil paint repels water, it was not a real problem. to finish and pack up before heading to our appointment.  

The Start now ready for indoor details
 Ohain (near Brussels) Belgium

This is a quaint village with local traffic and very picturesque trajectories. I thought it would be a great place to introduce my artist friend to her first plein air experience. I set up at a fork on the street with the view shown above before me. Things went fine until later in the day when locals started to come home. It seems I had chosen the exact spot they need to make a three-point turnaround in the narrow cobblestoned street. Little cars with manual stick shift revved their engines  and screeched their gears as  drivers and I exchanged scary and funny glances to one another for about an hour.  They got really close to my set up but we all managed to come out unscathed. Who could have known this would turn into such a distracting point of view? Some people definitely can't drive a stick shift.   It was funny occurance as well as scary!

Amsterdam, The Netherlands  (The Spui/Student Quarter)

The Start
After indoor studio touches
Here, I sat on a large bridge over an active canal with lot of tourists coming by in glass-top boats. The railing slightly blocked my view as I chose to sit fairly low on a lightweight 3-leg stool making my eyeview exactly into a black metal tube. Duh. So I immdediate developed fantastic posture to be able to look over it or scrunched like a humpback to see under it. My  real challenge occurred when I left the scene and couldn't get my easel to collapse for some reason.
The bridge was so wide that the restaurant clientele  spilled onto it. Due to the terrace filling up, a sizeable audience was amused to see a cross between Mrs. Bean and a female Charlie Chaplin contort to every angle possible while trying to get one stubborn retractable leg on my easel to cooperate. Patiently, I held back all the expletives that made up my entire vocabulary  for about 15 minutes, working out of the dilemna and took a well deserved bow to the applause of the terrace 'audience' on my departure. As for the finishing touches later in the convenience of my studio, I employed creative license with the trees and gave them more compliments to the blue boat to create more vibration, corrected a few verticals, punched up the sky and  neatened up the boat. Amsterdam is a beautiful city and this is a great memory of the student quarter  or 'The Spui' . Painting done I headed for the Zeezicht corner cafĂ© for the most generous, cut of deep dish hot apple pie I've ever had before heading over to the Rembrandt House.


the start                                                                                                                                     and after finishing touches

This beautiful, imposing monument of Joan d'Arc  is near the Louvre on the rue de Faubourg near Hotel Regine overlooking the Tuilleries. I asked permission to paint and in 20 seconds--just like the advert for my easel claimed, I had it set up and started to apply the first strokes with fervor. When the thick fog that made only the statue visible to me at first, started to lift, to my surprise the Eiffel Tower and a big Ferris wheel appeared! \o/  My friend opted to catch up on some emails since she plein air turned our not to be her cup of tea. I felt I could easily capitalize on the time to make a good composition, including these 'new' elements. Just when I thought I had the choice spot, my challenge became a tourist bus route that boarded every 15 minutes and obstructed my view while passengers loaded. I ended up with perfect opportunity to do some memory painting. Coincidentally, there was plein air group from the US staying the hotel, who had been watching my every ove from the breakfast room. We exchanged some conversation as they finished breakfast and filtered out to wait on thier bus to Normandy to paint plein air too--some of them for their experience at such.  


This ruined abbey is a well kept secret.  Ensconced in a forest about half hour from Brussels center, it is a remnant of one of  the largest cistern abbeys that existed in Europe in its time. It is amazing--again as one of these places which has so many painting trajects, it will give you Stendahl Syndrome just choosing where to paint. I set up on second level opening to a courtyard beneath with a lot of botanical growth typical to the whole ruin.. .One can always depend on solitude upon entering this history-drenched alcove of Belgium. Worth a google if not able to v
isit there in person. I am a lucky artist, but it is great place to practice zooming in and simplifying a composition. There's a lot of information for paintings in nature thus the plein air artist constantly has to select what gets included and what is left to another work.

Monet's House and GardensGIVERNY, FRANCE / and easy Paris day trip
with details added back in the studio
the start
Photo detail © TBH
           This is a quintessential tourist area of France where  famous battles and liberation of WWII took place. Surviving veterans indubitably bond this unique French -American-Canadian past. Each time I visit this village, I feel very at home because an artist lived here and many, as I , still come here to paint as a short term resident and admirer of Monet's legacy. I bring my workshop groups here sometimes, but today I would have the luxury of painting without other motive and interruption. 
          The  moist weather made all the local color of the  flora and fauna richer than ever. Fantastic! Shown here is an example of some flowers that will be incorporated into the foreground in the planted beds as well as on the trellis that runs the length of the terrace or porch. This is such an amazing place. I took anemoneson a previous trip.  I'll use them as well as my own imagination for the finishing touches back in my studio.

Click here to link for an all media selection of 

HOW TO USE THE CHECKLIST : Don't pack all that is on the list, it's meant to promt ideas and serve as template for possibilities to scavenge for things you may find at home. iF you are attending a workshop the organizer usually sends exact list of what is needed, per medium. Use the lists as a template to select items to pack/buy/or organize on location as deemed appropropriate if flying to the painting destination.

Have fun  and good luck!