Thursday, October 20, 2011

Magic of the Pen

With French easels...there are these "wing nuts" and after setting up and taking down 3 or 4 times a day, those little nuts become 4 letter words!! Betty jean Bullips

After ten days of battling the elements in the Florida heat, a veteran studio painter was asked 'so how do you like painting outdoors?' The response was, 'I realize now that I prefer painting in Plein-Air Conditioning!' Mary Erickson

One of the techniques taught in art classes is "en plein-air," --painting out of doors. I have read books, magazines and listened to professors on the subject and the consensus is that plein air is the very best way to paint landscapes, the studio being a poor second.  Working from photographs is frowned on. Plein-air painters are considered the elite of landscape artists.  I read an ariticle about an artist who specialized in snow scenes; she painted en plein-air.  She sat cross-legged in the back of her station wagon painting while looking out the car window.  If it was too cold, she'd take photos to use as a reference to paint in the studio. Huh? Why not do that to start with? 

Plein-air was a tool developed by the French Impressionists in the 1870s and 80s to create fresh bright paintings, different then anything seen before.  However the French Academy of Art, with their rigid standards in painting, rejected the Impressionists' work because it didn't fit into the traditional norm of art of that time. The outlaw painters broke all the rules and only much later were they were applauded for standing up to the establishment and creating a new form of art. However the modern establishment teaches the Impressionists techniques as rules in creating art and rules were what the original en plein-air painters stood against.

While some people enjoy painting outside--I wish them great joy in it, I have problems with it.  One-- I am too slow.  I can't rush the painting and the light changes and my leg is not fun.  Two-- The landscape out doors has too much information for me to process.  If I look at a tree, I have a hard time deciding what shapes to include or which to leave out to suggest the tree. Three-- After being led to feel guilty for working from photos, there is nothing wrong with using reference photographs.  Certainly I don't want to COPY the picture.  A good artist can take elements from several photos and put them together in a composition.  

Essence of a Tree
An art teacher once told me that the key to being an artist is to train yourself to see.  So I look.  I study a tree or a barn or clouds--I never stop looking, whether riding in a car or waiting somewhere--and somehow this magical gift from God comes out when I need it.  When I start moving the pen around on the paper out came this tree--not any particular tree but the essence of what I have seen, and I did it inside while listening to people speak at a meeting. Who needs plein-air?  


  1. I can't draw inside OR outside. You have such a lovely talent.


  2. This is about armadillos: we call 'em dillers in Florida, a nuisance here. They are most often seen grazing on the side of the road and unsuccessfully crossing! Don't know why they graze, 'cause they eat bugs, maybe even fire ants. Well I decided to catch one and drove off the tarmac. I ran after him and found that they are faster in the bush, but not on the roadside. Leaning forward, I was about to scoop him up when he jumped straight up and hit me in the jaw. I didn't know they did that! Well 2 minutes later I was back at it and grabbed the sucker around the 4th band or middle band of 9. Gotta grab 'em there if you don't want to get your fingers sliced up by those long claws. Those feet run twice as fast in the air, and it is harder than holding a hyper vibrator or a paint shaker. I couldn't hold on so I tried to pin him to the grass. He had more traction than two Quarter horses (is that a half a horse?). As I pinned him and protected my self from a pop up, he dug straight down. I gave up, but have the experience I will never forget!! BTW, they taste like pork so they say!

  3. Oh that is too funny, Whiz. I have never met anyone who actually caught one. Actually, they taste more like frog legs!! But could have been my narrow mind dominating. :o)

    Thank you Sue for always reading and commenting. <3

  4. I love the sketch of the tree! I'm so glad you've started writing on your blog again Maxie.

    Could you increase the font size a bit. It's a bit too tiny to read comfortably.