Tag Archives: marsh

marsh with egret / art theory

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This is watercolor with Inktense pencils in the grass. I’m not sure if I should work on the egret more or stop now.

When I see a beautiful place like this, I want to paint all of it. I wonder why the trend in art is to simplify. I need bigger paper so I can put more of the scene in the picture.

My theory is this, if an artist’s life is complicated they feel the need to simplify their art. Most peoples’ lives are complicated. My life is so extremely simple most people would die of boredom. That’s why I enjoy the complexity of nature so much.

I look at this scene and think about things like, that’s a great habitat for an egret but inhospitable for a human. How many snakes are down there? How many of those snakes are poisonous? Is the light better in the afternoon? Because the parking spot close to my little overlook will be full and I’ll have to walk a mile with my art supplies if I don’t get there early. Why did the trees die? An inlet is on the other side of that row of trees and the path floods. Did the marsh water get saltier, killing trees? Or did beetles do that? I might never know the answers to my questions but that’s the kind of things my mind goes to.

Since my life is so simple, I feel like my mind is more balanced, thinking about simple questions and not stressing about serious problems. It makes me look slow in comparison to other artists. I can’t call myself “prolific” because it takes a week to finish a watercolor. That’s ok. If I was an artist that felt compelled to make art in some type of frenzied state, (the other extreme) ┬áthat would be unbalanced for me.

As always, feel free to opine.

how I rig up my taboret for plein air painting at the beach

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I looked at plein air easels in catalogs, and saw most of them don’t have spikes on the legs. They also have tiny pallets. I have an easel with spikes, It’s saved my painting from falling down in the wind a lot of times. I wonder why spikes aren’t always on plein air set ups. And why the tiny pallets? How’s an artist going to mix up colors and thin them down with turp for a glaze? I guess that might be one reason plein air impressionists don’t use a palette knife to mix paint, their pallets are too small. I usually spend a lot of time preparing my paint so I need a big enough palette to mix a few colors. I bought a palette for watercolor or acrylic and discarded the sponge it came with. I have a piece of glass with duct tape on the back to mix on. I can see my colors and values better on the gray duct tape than on a white background.

They make the plein air kits so it all fits in a box you have to lug out to your location. Maybe most plein air painters don’t go over sand dunes or down long trails. A few years ago I bought this beach cart with wide wheels. That’s how I can take all these heavy supplies down a sandy trail. I lay my cart on it’s side close to my easel on the left because I’m left handed, and put my palette on the side of my cart. It’s off the ground high enough that I can easily reach it, and it was windy this week but my palette stayed wedged in that spot and didn’t blow down. I had to keep a hand on my painting at all times, and when I stopped painting I had to take it off the easel and put it on the ground so it wouldn’t blow down. Even so, sand gets into my paint and sticks blow on it that I can brush off most of after the paint dries.IMG_1956

This is my camera’s perspective of the scene. It looks far away compared to my naked eye perspective, and the colors look more gray. It got a little cloudy so the shadows aren’t showing up in this photo. This is why I don’t use a photo to get my sketch.

Instead of starting my painting from the weak perspective of the camera, I hold up my sketchbook and try to imagine it’s transparent. I decide how much of the scene is covered by my sketchbook and measure my perspective by comparing nature to the size of my paper. I try to decide where I want my horizon line to be on my sketch and how far I can extend my sketch on each side. How many trees can I fit in the painting, how much sedge, water, etc.

Even though I am trying to match the colors and values of nature so that I can make the illusion of depth, I can’t copy nature exactly.

I recently read an article about a plein air painter who says don’t copy nature, just do your own interpretation of it. His paintings were monochromatic. What’s the point of going out to paint in plein air if you’re not trying to match the colors and values of nature? I can’t see anything more beautiful than nature as it is. My own interpretation comes through in the painting even though I am trying to copy the beauty of nature as I see it. That artist with the big write up in a magazine has a much larger ego than I do if he thinks his monochromatic fuzzy flat paintings are somehow better than real life.IMG_1954

This is my painting with one layer of glazes over the whole canvas. You can see the difference between my naked eye perspective and the camera’s. My perspective is up close and personal compared to my photo. So, what is real? It could be entirely something else from the naked eye or the camera.