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Painting the Urban Landscape

19 May 2014

When talking about landscape painting, we don't often consider the urban landscape for a plein air painting subject, but for those painters who live in cities and urban areas, it can be a challenge to find any natural landscape to paint at all. Resourcefulness and a bit of daring are sometimes called for when the view is obscured by buildings or only visible from a structure located in a busy area.

Landscape painting in the urban environs.
Landscape painting in the urban environs.
Although the photo at the left was taken in a rare quiet moment, my location was a busy walkway on a bridge spanning a major river in the Midwest. Because there is also a dam below the bridge, there are hydro power plants and other industrial and city office buildings blocking both shorelines. While it was an advantage to be able to use this bridge to set up looking down the middle of the river, it was a disadvantage to be on a busy pedestrian walkway on a heavily trafficked bridge. Fortunately, there was a low concrete wall which protected me from the traffic moving at 40 mph a few feet away, but the distractions of the traffic noise, vibration, occasional honking created challenges to the concentration needed to focus on the subject. Also, because I was partially blocking the walkway, people had to slow down and sometimes stop to get around me. Comments or conversations would naturally develop out of that.

In these situations, most people are pleasant - even interested to see an artist at work, but constant interruptions can slow down the painting progress! It gets hectic when the sun starts to go down quickly and only precious moments remain to get those beautiful shadows just right.

My usual strategy in these situations is to get on site early so that the lion's share of the work can be put in before the critical elements must be nailed down. By getting the composition and colors blocked in early, I can be relaxed about the interruptions until the last few minutes. Sometimes I work on a smaller size, if I arrive late, as was the case here. I try to be pleasant to passersby and answer any questions or comments - even pass out a business card if asked for one. I always meet interesting people curious about painting or art. They are the ones who usually bother to stop and chat. And, surprisingly often, I meet someone who wants to learn how to paint like I do, especially plein air.

Until now, I could only suggest that they take one of our workshops during the year. But that option isn't possible for everyone. After many months of development, we have inaugurated a new educational outreach program to accommodate more people which we call The Artist's Road School. We are offering personalized mentoring online, designed with a progressive system of learning exercises and personal video critiques, available for a limited number of students. Our on-line mentoring is more affordable than a workshop, more individualized, and students can enroll month by month. We offer only watercolor instruction at present, but will be offering oil painting instruction soon. Our hope is that this will give busy people and those on a budget the opportunity to finally make their dreams of creating beautiful art a reality.

 If you or someone you know is interested, go to The Artist's Road School by clicking here.

Check out The Artist's Road, where you'll also find more great articles, artist interviews and unique artist tools.

--John and Ann

 

 


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