It's an Excuse to Paint Umbrellas

29 Nov 2011

The Coming Storm by George Inness, 1879, oil on canvas, 27 1/4 x 41 3/4.
The Coming Storm by George Inness, 1879, oil on canvas, 27 1/4 x 41 3/4.
Are you as bored of pretty outdoor painting scenes as I am? My eyes just seem to glaze over when I see a plein air painting scene with picture perfect sunlight over an idyllic landscape. I'm just not inspired. Give me a little atmosphere; throw in an unexpected color, or use an unusual compositional element--and then I'm hooked.

Looking outside my window right now, it definitely isn't a scene worth writing home about--overcast, rainy, and a little grey. But it just might be a scene worth painting. Here are a few of the ways I could turn this bad weather scene into a plein air artist's best friend.

Well, first I'd tackle that sky. For a while I've been wondering how to paint clouds with more impact, and then I realized that I've been thinking only of the airiness and transparency of clouds. But I'm shoving that off to paint titans of the sky--massive cloud formations! Clouds can look like giants, formidable and weighty. So instead of painting just an overcast expanse, I could make it seem like a massive cloud cluster that is looming on the horizon.


Situating a figure like this in your plein air painting can enliven a composition. (The Downpour by Bev Jozwiak, watercolor painting.)

Situating a figure like this in
your plein air painting can
enliven a composition. (The
Downpour
by Bev Jozwiak,
watercolor painting.)


Everywhere I look the trees are bare, but that is a great opportunity to paint the unique architecture of their forms. Plus, not every tree grows straight and tall--something that is easy to forget when they are covered with verdant foliage. In fact, they grow at some pretty dramatic angles with interesting lines.

Another way to take full command of this would-be plein air painting is by adding elements that aren't there. What about a person walking along with a bright blue umbrella? Or, if you are painting water or a seascape, a cluster of boats moored offshore? I'm all for letting my imagination run wild and infuse a painting composition with more liveliness.

Plein air painting is not about a gorgeous landscape. It is about creating a sense of place or a moment in time. And a real plein air painter can make any kind of weather or landscape work to her or his advantage by eking out what makes the scene unique. Our latest issue of Plein Air Painting magazine is all about giving artists the methods and strategies to do just that. And for more plein air tips--visit the new Plein Air Painting topic page on Artist Daily. I've pulled together great content for us all to be inspired by--from James Gurney's discussions of landscape and light to info on painting clouds and more. Enjoy!

 


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Comments

SaraG@34 wrote
on 30 Nov 2011 1:54 PM

When I saw the title, "It's an Excuse to Paint Umbrellas," I thought the article would be about painting umbrellas.  I thought that was a really neat idea for those dabbling with paint or painting.  What a great  feeling I would get from receiving a handpainted umbrella from a friend!  I know I would be delighted to receive one.

I wonder what type of paint might be best for painting on umbrellas to insure that the design would not run or fae away.  Any ideas?

Sara from Glen Ridge, NJ