4 Top Tips for Painting en Plein Air by Emily Faludy:
1.Carry an empty carrier bag with you so you have a receptacle to weigh down your easel with rocks or other natural debris if it gets windy
2. Cover up your paints with a towel if it is warm, else paint tubes will get hot and when you open them paint will spill out
3. Have a checklist of items that you need to take.
charged phone, camera, paints, easel, palette, towel, wet wipes, brushes, drawing equipment, sunscreen, spare clothing for rain/sunshine, full and empty turps bottles…etc etc. Everyone’s list will be individual, but a list is vital..nothing more irritating then arriving at a spot to paint and realizing you’ve forgotten something!
4. If you are using the paint on a palette another day, but not necessarily tommorow, cover the palette with clingfilm which has been brushed with linseed oil…paint underneath stays fresh and you don’t loose so much paint onto the clingfilm because of the oil.
Written on Sunday, 1st June 2014
Today’s blog post is set on the top on a hill overlooking the beautiful country village of East Meon, in Hampshire. I found this view several weeks ago whilst admiring the church; I had the sudden idea that there might be a good vantage point overlooking the church and village from the hill behind it, so up I sprinted, secretly hoping to be wrong to avoid the future dragging of my heavy art paraphernalia up such a steep slope. But alas, there it was: a stunning view of fields, church, village, just waiting to be painted. How could I refuse? So here I am, once again making that climb and arriving in an overgrown field with a stunning view but a few, shall we say, less redeeming qualities…the grass is knee high and wet, the terrain uneven and studded with rabbit holes and large, unexpected cow pats. I negotiate my way to the best position with difficulty and then proceed to do the drunken spider dance with my easel, which is accustomed to more even surfaces.
Eventually I stabilize my work surface, and try to gauge what kind of painting I am making. An ‘all in one go’ piece, taking maybe six hours, with lots of freshness and impressionism but lacking the detail of a longer, more involved work? Or a painting which will be worked up in layers, each layer not made to look ‘instantly pretty’ but to aid the progression to the next, with lots of detail and precision but requiring many trips, and more specifically many treks up that steep hill… I look at the scene in front and make my decision. The view is complex, with many architectural and fiddly, formal elements, and would be best served as a long haul piece, with lots of detailing. So today my aim is to cover the whole surface once, to roughly get down where all the elements are, to enable me to get more specific in my marking next time. Thus decided, I begin to make my first brushstroke, and as I do so the church bells below me start to chime, first lyrically and in synch down the scale – dum de dum de dum de dum de…then gradually tumbling down to a confused, slightly hysterical jumble as the bell ringers get out of time with one another. The whole scene is quintessentially English, down to the weather which changes so abruptly and repeatedly that I stop bothering to take off my jumper in the hot moments and choose instead to periodically sweat it out.
Questions which will affect the outcome of the whole painting are constantly posed, such as: ‘Do I bother painting in accurately every tree, every house in the village that I can see? Will anyone notice if I don’t?’ To this I decide that yes, I will try my best to get everything in, and correctly. I figure that if I’m going to the effort of buying and packing materials, dragging food, drink, easel, palette and paintings up a steep, holey, poo-studded field, then I might as well go all the way now I’m here and make the best, most honest painting I can.
In my peripheral vision I see walkers taking the path to the view from the very top of the slope, overlooking Butser Hill. They are all very appropriately attired, and I look woefully down at my own feet, in my summer trainers, through which water is seeping at an alarming rate. One man stops to look at the view with me. We are both contemplating the scene in front when he shakes his head sadly and says – ‘Thing is, see, you’ll never get those greens…there are just so many greens…’ ‘Oh, I’ll do my best,’ I say, confidently cheery. ‘No’, he says, sadder still now. ‘You won’t. You won’t ever get those (he points at the trees in front) greens. Never…’ and he carries on his way, making me feel momentarily completely deflated, because he is right. I won’t ever get those greens, exactly. I will get similar greens. I will do my best to show the viewer what they were like, but they won’t be the same as standing there looking at them. I suppose it’s one of those, ‘You have to be there,’ things.
The sky abruptly clouds over and the birds go quiet. Now it’s cold, and suddenly there is nothing worse in the world than being a landscape painter. I think of all the people sitting in offices clutching warm cups of tea and checking their Facebook accounts, chatting about their weekends and not standing alone in random fields on exposed hillsides, angle deep in excrement, and I feel very despondent, and soggy footed, and alone. Wild mood swings are a part of the process for me so I choose to ignore the negativity and soldier on, approximating the later colour of greens and smudging in roughly for now, areas which will become sharper with subsequent layers.
Hours pass, and the underpainting nears its conclusion, and around the same time the cloud lifts like a curtain. Now it’s sunny, gloriously, radiatingly sunny, with birds singing and heat on my neck once more and there is nothing better than being a landscape painter, standing in a wild field with a palette in my hand, in tune with everything and feeling very sorry for all those people stuck in offices on a day like this, with nothing better to do than check their Facebook and discuss their weekends yet again…and missing all of this!
The story of ‘Fields and the village of East Meon’ is to be continued next time…
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