Home Ground - Finding Inspiration in the Familiar

24 Sep 2014

Plein air painting by John Hulsey--Misty Morning
Misty Morning by John Hulsey
The lesson we first learned when living and plein air painting in the Hudson Valley in New York is that there is a deep pleasure to be gained from becoming intimately familiar with the same piece of ground over the course of many years. The process is essentially a silent conversation, in which we can receive knowledge and inspiration from Nature if we are willing to quietly observe the constant flux of everything around us.

Plein air painting--Short Horns--by John Hulsey
Short Horns by John Hulsey
Plein air painting by Ann Trusty--Madame
Madame by Ann Trusty

Light changes direction with the sun, plants grow taller, trees die and fall over opening a new vista, the wind blows and destroys that perfect reflection on a nearby body of water, the tide runs out, snow alters everything, and on and on. Plein air art is all about observing these subtle changes, and it is a wonderful advantage for any plein air painter to be sensitive to them. Find inspirations like these when you are outdoor painting, even when you repeatedly return to the same site.

We've discussed the benefits of traveling to new lands in order to get “new eyes.” The unfamiliar can certainly be stimulating and even entertaining. But, the familiar, however well we think we know it, is in reality, always in motion and never static, and this continuously provides fresh opportunities when plein air painting.

We keep our pochade boxes ready by the door at all times because we never know when the light outdoors will change into something magical. Monet certainly made a virtue out of repeatedly painting his gardens in every light and season, and it is no less the same kind of experience for any of us with the opportunity to study a place and paint it en plein air over a long period of time. Nature reveals her secrets slowly to the patient and observant artist in us all.

Share your "familiar" inspirations and how you see them grow and change by leaving a comment. And for more on this subject visit us at The Artist’s Road.

--John and Ann

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crowdaddy wrote
on 29 Mar 2011 9:37 AM

I am currently paintng around familiar land, with trees, and the snow leaving.  That was weeks ago, and now the snow is gone.  Fortunately I was able to capture the snow befoe it left and there is no snow to study now.  Its the trees and the light coming through them that I'm trying to finish.  Mixing the right colors for the trunks seems endless.  I want to do them justice.  Why do they seem so difficult?