Don't Let Your Plein-Air Skills Grow Cold

9 Jan 2012

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.


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ahorrasi wrote
on 13 Jan 2012 12:44 PM

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.