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