Pebbles on the Edge

Pebbles on the Edge
Lake McDonald, 2014

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Plein air watercolor painting

Black Butte Resort..nice aspens

Black Butte View: unfinished but enhanced with colored pencils

Billings Farm Afternoon: something kind of magical happened but I can't figure out what...

Experiments in bad taste: Puffs of blue smoke, gumdrop haystacks, flaming trees, striped fields, and blue mountains...Sennelier watercolor. It bleeds! Badly!

Plein air...well, I still prefer my imagination, although the exercise was extremely valuable.

I recently attended a week-long watercolor workshop in Bend (with my mom and sister) which turned out to be rather different than I had first imagined: plein air painting, or painting outdoors from life.

One must possess the correct equipment for this sort of enterprise. When I finally got around to using my cheap and inadequate easel (still holding my palette in my left hand, my brushes in my mouth, and putting my water cup on the ground--unnecessary distractions) it proved a slight boon, but my paintings (studies) were tiny and atrocious just the same and I realized how difficult painting the landscape from life really is. I've been fixing things since.

Capturing a few moments of light is perhaps most tricky, since light moves across the face of the planet with inexorable predictability. By the time one feels he or she has captured the atmosphere, it's gone. Fleeting, light is, which may be why we make art in the first place: to arrest an ineffable moment that in essence is uncapturable.

And that is the very quintessence of plein air: the experience itself, the memory it leaves, the phantom traces in our souls, because our being there, fully present, is the essence of being itself. Presence. Awareness. Paying attention.

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