From my kitchen window, I am at times held breathless in a moment of glorious beauty that invites me to photograph, paint, dream, and float away from the mundane. The view is so beautiful, so mystical, that I have often thought of doing a series of photographs and paintings, every day at the same time…and yet, I have also felt inept in my ability to capture the essence of the experience. I have considered it not only beyond my capabilities, but somehow an act against nature, by attempting to recreate, improve, or somehow contain its changing mood.
As luck would have it, yesterday my compadre in plein air suggested that we set up and paint from my backyard, which with its soothing Japanese-style garden, is abundant with options for framing. The suggestion was innocent, practical as well, yet I struggled with that inclination to not capture the mystery of my view, feeling my fear of ineptitude also creeping in… Somewhat reluctantly, I agreed.
Plein air painting in the summer can be so rewarding. The sunshine and fresh air, sweet birdsong, flutter of wings and fins against water, reaching up and reaching down for various reasons…frog call and response chanting, fragrant trees and flowering shrubs, the whisper of wind on your shoulder…all conspire to coax the mind into a state of receptivity, if one allows.
Plein air also has its challenges. That sunshine creates hot spots, blinding the eyes to the paper…and even if you start a painting in the shade, the passage of time ne’er stops, and shadows dance across the landscape, drawing you forward unaware. That gentle breeze decides how quickly you must work, either drying the watercolor, or lifting paper off the easel, and humidity clouds hang, dampening everything, also directly affecting the final result. Today, the medium was pastel ~ a handful of select Nupastel, Rembrandt, Terry Ludwig, Sennelier, and Unison sticks, on a 5″ x 7″ Art Spectrum Colourfix, Blue Haze sanded paper. This was my first plein air pastel painting, and I was testing out new equipment, including an OBO tripod and travel-sized Heilman pastel box with easel.