– Bob Bahr reporting, Editor PleinAir Today –
What happens when an experienced painter tries plein air painting for the first time?
Lead Image: Veteran painter Jacqueline Gori recently ventured outdoors to try plein air painting.
Jacqueline Gori will tell you. She has been a studio landscape painter for 20 years. She runs an art school in Ontario, Canada. Gori is an accomplished artist — she just had never painted en plein air. Then her students started busting her chops.
“My students have been challenging me to have an outdoor class,” she says. “Since the weather is so nice, I thought it was high time to give plein air a try. Intimidating, fearful, embarrassed of what people will think — these are some of the reasons that hold people back from painting outdoors on location, or plein air. For me, it was the bugs, and never knowing how to translate what I methodically do in my studio to painting spontaneously on the road.”
One of the first things Gori discovered was that plein air painters are irresistible to passersby. “Easels out in the open are like drawing moths to a flame,” she says. “People casually meander behind you trying to be quiet and inconspicuous, but all the while leering over your shoulder to get a better look at what you’re creating. Even though I have been painting most of my life — professionally for the last 20 years — all the old fears came to the surface. The conversation running through my head was ‘What will they think?’ ‘What if they do not like what I am painting?’ ‘What if they think I am doing a bad job?’ It’s the same fears and voices that we all hear in our heads when attempting to do something new. So, not to be beaten, I took myself to a corner, so to speak, and gave myself a quick pep talk. Yes, even professional artists need pep talks.”
She worked through it, and all was well. “As my tension eased away, my method took over, and methodically I was able to implement what I do step-by-step in my studio,” she says. “First, I analyze my subject for the best composition, following design principles. Then I look at the light and dark balance by using a notan design. This forms an underpainting for my finished painting. Now, I choose a color scheme to ensure that the colors are harmonious. You don’t always have to paint the exact colors that are in front of you — in fact, I rarely do.
“After 1 1/2 hours of painting, I had finished a pretty decent little study. People that had stopped to watch were not judging me at all; they were amazed at the enjoyment and relaxation. I found that most people were encouraging and complimentary. As a studio artist, you can often experience artist’s block, but I found painting plein air refreshing and a great kick-start to getting back into my studio. It was like the caffeine boost to my artistic right brain.”
Gori reports that plein air painting is now a regular part of her painting routine.