Resources for Landscape Painters

American Artist has recently offered a great deal of information to those of us who enjoy working out in nature with oils, pastels, acrylics, watercolors, or drawing materials. Senior Editor Allison Malafronte did a great job organizing a state-by-state landscape painting competition and interviewing notable plein air painters about their experiences on our Plein Air Blog. Also, Senior Editor Brian Riley posted galleries of images by both contemporary and historical artists who worked outdoors, including some of the 18th- and 19th-century artists whose paintings were recently exhibited at The Morgan Library & Museum, in New York City, and were described in the April, 2009 issue of the print magazine.

I had a chance to apply some of this shared knowledge when I hauled my oil painting supplies to New Orleans last weekend and set my easel up in the historic French Quarter. The weather was a bit chilly by local standards, but since I escaped a foot of snow and bitterly cold temperatures in New York I wasn’t about to complain. I used a tiny Flip video camera to record the progress of two of my paintings and posted one of them below. (You can see the other video here.)


I’m not going to brag about the paintings, nor am I going to make excuses for failing to produce masterpieces. I will only say that I was totally exhilarated by the experience of spending a few hours focused on using oil paints to respond to what I saw and felt. It was enough just to be in that fascinating, historic, colorful place and to challenge myself to understand how the sunlight impacted the shapes, colors, and atmosphere. I tried to remember all the advice offered by the artists I’ve interviewed about establishing a clear center of interest, starting with simple shapes that can be broken into smaller details, balancing the warm and cool colors, integrating hard and soft edges, and allowing some areas to remain sketchy while others are sharply defined.

When I was halfway through developing each painting, I experienced that common feeling of having lost control and needing to wipe the paint off the Gessobord panel, but I was determined to salvage the picture, so I kept following the procedures outlined in many of the articles in American Artist. I stood back and checked the drawing, considered whether I was maintaining the important value and color relationships, and adjusted the brushwork so that there would be a suggestion of more detail and texture than I actually painted. The resulting paintings won’t win any awards, but I can put them in my office as reminders of satisfying experiences.

If you have recommendations to offer other plein air painters about great places to work, equipment they might find useful, events in which they might want to participate, workshops they might want to consider joining, or videos/DVDs they might want to watch, I would appreciate you sharing those recommendations below.

M. Stephen Doherty

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Steven Doherty Blog

About BrianRiley

Brian Riley is the managing editor for the American Artist family of titles (American Artist, Watercolor, Drawing & Workshop) and has been part of the AA team since 2003. He first became interested in art as a child, specifically drawing, but drifted away from the visual arts as he grew older, gravitating towards writing while in college. His position at AA has offered him the opportunity to reinvigorate his early passion and continue his education.  

12 thoughts on “Resources for Landscape Painters

  1. Haven’t watched the vid yet and it will be the icing.
    You wrote: “When I was halfway through developing each painting, I experienced that common feeling of having lost control and needing to wipe the paint off the Gessobord panel, but I was determined to salvage the picture,” I’ve probably done the wiping too many times and should have taken it to the end using your thought process! Thanks. Now I’ll watch the vid………..

  2. Thanks for all your comments. I just wanted to you to know I’m just as challenged to learn and improve as you are. The words of encouragement will help keep me motivated.

    If only I hadn’t lost so much money to AIG, GM, and Wachovia Bank I would retire and paint full time!

  3. Steve, I love this video and hearing your reason for selecting the subject. This is a terrific aid in teaching art as we are such visual creatures. Creative Catalyst Productions has just set up a page to rent art videos for instant viewing: I notice Amazon is selling a digital device that downloads books in seconds. Maybe our future Art books will be digital and have video illustrations?
    Or is this already happening? Julia

  4. Julia,
    As I’m sure you’ve notices, there is an increasing amount of great instructional material being posted online, along with a lot of poor quality writing, videotaping, and painting. The challenge seems to be the same as it always has been, how to sort through the magazines, books, DVD’s, videos, blogs, and online galleries to find something that informs and inspires us. Steve

  5. Steve, Trusted sites and Editors will always be the key to well written and worthwhile information. There is so much stuff printed and produced that read like one of my manuscripts before the fine eye and hand of an experienced editor makes the defining suggestions and changes. Available information tends to become overwhelming to sort through. I am so happy to discover “My American Artist” as a source for this kind of information.
    Maybe this could grow into one of the digital book selling sites? I think I know a few out of print books that could be revived for a start. Julia

  6. There are more and more inspiring landscape blogs by top painters every year.

    Jeremy Lipking, Marc Dalessio, and Colin Page are three who I follow at the moment.