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The Most Excellent Adventure of Painting Outdoors

Often referred to as Plein Air painting, painting outdoors is always an adventure. The act of making art is, in and of itself, a piece of work: where to begin, which stroke next, what color, aargh-the model moved, etc. Painting outdoors intensifies the work load with heat, cold, wind, ants, gnats, mosquitoes, aargh-the light moved, etc. I was asked recently by a fellow artist, who paints exclusively in the studio, WHY I even want to paint outdoors. Two main reasons came to mind: 1. I love being out in the landscape. It’s a way to go camping for a moment (smell the trees, feel the wind, walk on dirt and rocks) without the work of setting up and taking down a full campsite, food preparation in the wild, and going to an uncomfortable bed dirty. 2. Seeing the landscape with my own eyes. There is dimension and color (especially in the shadows) that is lost in the translation from life to photos. I do use photos, of course, as reference to paint later in the studio. I am grateful for what is captured and disappointed with what is lost. Paintings I have done outdoors, or started outdoors, or had a small outdoor painting to refer to while taking it to a bigger size have color and energy that is not there sometimes when working solely from a photograph. Later, a third reason popped into my mind: 3. Why, the adventure, of course. Thought I’d share some of this year’s painting excursion moments with you all. Thank heavens for art buddies to paint with. Life is a rich experience.

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