William Wood - painting in an airplane
Images courtesy William Wood

How plein air painter William Wood was tasked with a challenge of great heights, and the difference it will make for science.

En Plein Air, In the Art: An Art and Science Collaboration


In March 2021 I was asked to take part in a snow line survey, which is a scientific research trip that takes place every year to monitor the condition of a series of glaciers within the southern Alps here in New Zealand using the latest 3D modelling, infrared, photography etc. I was privileged to be invited; this is a prestigious field trip that has been operating since 1978. Dr. Andrew Lorrey was keen to get an artist, namely a plein air painter, to gain an alternative point of view, and seeing as I was up for the challenge he was keen to proceed.

I was presented with the challenge of attempting to capture the experience using my plein air box and oil paints in hand at the back of a fixed wing aircraft. I initially produced a series of small oil sketches, attempting to arrest a glacier in a single brush stroke, the tones, shapes, and forms of the cracking ice, etc. It took me several hours to work out a strategy of trying to achieve the impossible task of producing a plein air painting in the air whilst circling the glaciers of the southern Alps.

The piece would highlight the importance of on-location observations from a humanistic perspective, whilst evidently pushing the practice of plein air painting further. The research endeavors to create a bridge between art and science, working on a symbiotic relationship to further the awareness of wild places, which plein air painters often find themselves in whilst contributing to the earth sciences with a point of difference.

William Wood - painting in an airplane William Wood - painting in an airplane

Stay tuned: I am currently in the process of developing a short video highlighting the experience with Dr. Lorrey.

Connect with William Wood:
Website | Instagram

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