Don’t Let Your Plein-Air Skills Grow Cold

Melting Snow by Ben Fenske, 60 x 75, oil on canvas
Don’t give up your plein air focus over the winter months. Try to paint
from life indoors and keep sketching.
(Melting Snow by Ben Fenske, 60 x 75, oil on canvas.)

For some of us, winter weather is just a bit too unpredictable and chilly to spend much time outdoor painting. But if you’re like me, you don’t want to go for several months without making art. So this is the time of the year when I look for art-making activities I can do indoors. Here are a couple of ideas to keep your plein air painting skills sharp:

1. Paint from life indoors. The benefits of this are obvious. Still lifes and interior subjects are readily available and are a natural extension of painting landscapes. And if you can get someone to pose, even if it’s your own face in the mirror, you could try your hand at portraiture. The important thing is to keep your skills from getting rusty.

2. Paint studio paintings from plein-air sketches. I don’t know about you, but I have lots of plein-air works that I’ve kept because they have some nice qualities but they just aren’t frame worthy. In the winter, I like to paint them again, trying to improve on whatever went wrong while retaining their best qualities. It’s an intellectual and artistic challenge.

3. Sketching. I know how valuable sketching is to improving my eye-hand coordination and my drawing abilities, and yet I honestly don’t take the time to do it often enough. Winter is a good opportunity to practice sketching, and there is no shortage of subjects all around the house or perhaps out the window.

These are just three quick ideas, and I’m sure there are dozens of others. Please share your best tips for maintaining your skill level, even when you can’t get outside to paint.
–Jennifer

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Jennifer King

About Jennifer King

Immersed in the art world is just where Jennifer King wants to be. Thanks to her long career in the art-instruction business--she was the editor of several leading artists' magazines--she has had incredible opportunities to meet and interview many of the finest living artists of our times, including Will Barnett, Clyde Aspevig, Scott Christensen, Sam Adoquei, Richard Schmid, Everett Raymond Kinstler, Ken Auster, Carla O’Connor, C.W. Mundy, Dan Gerhartz, Birgit O’Connor, Daniel Greene, and countless other generous artists who’ve shared their knowledge and insights. She is also honored to have edited several art-instruction books with such noted artists as Tom Lynch, Dan McCaw, Ramon Kelley, Wende Caporale, Carlton Plummer, and more.

Inspired by their passion for art, Jennifer returned to her own love of painting about 15 years ago, studying with figurative painter Tina Tammaro. Through this experience, she discovered her love of landscape painting, which for her, acts as a visual metaphor for human emotion. Constable, Corot, Pissarro, Inness, and Diebenkorn are among her artistic heroes. Other creative pursuits include photography and jewelry-making, and she’s also continuously studying art history and theory.

Jennifer paints primarily outdoors, but also in her home studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. She also continues to serve as a lecturer and competition juror for various art organizations across the country, and she is a member of the Women’s Art Club of Cincinnati. Jennifer is currently represented by the Greenwich House Gallery in O’Bryonville, a suburb of Cincinnati. As a confirmed landscape artist, her future goal is to use her experience in the art world to raise awareness for the need to protect our environment.

One thought on “Don’t Let Your Plein-Air Skills Grow Cold

  1. I had an experience similar to this with a painting that I began in early Fall Plein Air and then ‘life got in the way’. By the time i got back to it, it was mid December in the north Carolina mountains – not good. So I had to resort to completing it with a photograph. I wasn’t terribly convinced about the outcome, but it did the job.

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