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There is something interesting about plein air painting with a group…you can be artistic together, glean insights from one another, and yet quiet and absorbed in your creation.
My group, the Tehchapi Plein Air Painters spent a day in our quaint little town to see what fascinating subjects we could find to paint.
The Gallinger House
Walking down the street, a bright yellow home caught my eye. How could I resist? That yellow seemed to call out “paint me!” Turns out the house is a historic home built in 1880 by a gentleman named Joe Gallinger. The plaque near the front of the house gave us a few more details about what our town was like in the 1800’s.
My wife, always the social butterfly, went to knock on the door of the current owner and mentioned how much I would like to do a painting of her historic home. She was happy to oblige, and thus the “Gallinger House” painting came into being.
The Artistic Eye
It was just the right time of day, and the shadows danced across the wooden fence. But it was the warm glow surrounding the yellow house that really captured my imagination. The challenge would be to approach this painting in a way that captures the light and emphasizes the shadows.
Artists often see things through different eyes… we notice how light and dark, nuances of color, what something could be, etc.
What Makes for Great Art?
Have you ever stopped to enjoy a beautiful sight in nature and just taken in the details of the moment? What did it look like, how did it feel? What were all the elements that came together to make it beautiful? You may have snapped a picture in that moment to capture the beauty…but often that photo falls short of capturing what your eye was taking in and your senses were experiencing. Even professional photographers often edit their pictures in order to best depict what their eye captured that the lens could not.
An artist does much of the same thing. Our paintings attempt to capture the beauty and nuance of something the common eye (or the lens) may not quite be adequate to convey. We see things with an artistic eye. An imagination and senses that take in details that make a subject or a moment beautiful.
So the next time you are out looking for inspiration for art, spend a moment absorbing the beauty found in unique details. The way the light hits the subject, the warmth or vibrance of something, the intricate patterns or fun details. Then push the envelope when depicting those things…and don’t be afraid to push the limits past what the naked eye can take in. Go ahead and emphasize the beauty you see.
Plein Air Painting In Public
Painting in town is always an interesting experience. People would walk by and stop and look, and one young women on her way from school stopped to ask questions and chat about art.
As I was painting the kind owner came out several times to take a look and view my progress. Her grandchildren came out once and gathered around asking “is it done yet, is it done yet?” Then they would excitedly go back and report to the grandmother.
They all seemed to love the process of the painting. However, ultimately it took two trips back to the Gallinger house and some time in the studio to finalize it.
I still haven’t shared the final results with the home’s owner. The one downside of plein air painting? The people who take such an interest don’t always see the end results. It is my hope that what they do see inspires their creativity!