Painting en plein air

“Plein Air on the Santa Cruz,” Tubac’s first retreat and workshop for plein air artists, took place at Rancho Santa Cruz in Tumacacori, Arizona, recently. Organizer Virginia Vovchuk shares the news, and some insights into painting outdoors, in this exclusive Q&A with us.

Painting en plein air
Virginia Vovchuk, “Spring at Salero,” 14 x 11 in., Second Place, Hilltop Gallery Spring Show 2017, Nogales, Arizona

Cherie Dawn Haas: For beginners, please describe the first 15 minutes of any given plein air painting you create.
Virginia Vovchuk: To start a plein air painting, I decide on the composition, and with a very light wash of a neutral color, I create an outline, or washes of color, that form the composition. It’s important to identify the “path” in the painting, and any perspective that I want to capture, in this first phase.

Painting en plein air
Virginia Vovchuk, “Hayfield, Rio Rico,” 15 x 11 in., Award of Excellence, Spokane Watercolor Society 2018, Spokane, Washington

CDH: Tell us about your first plein air painting experience, and why you continue the practice.
VV: I started painting outside when I was studying art at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In that beautiful coastal location, with temperate weather, it was easy for me to adopt plein air painting. Later I did much of my work while traveling abroad, using a watercolor block and one or two brushes, often sitting on benches in city parks and street cafes. I enjoyed interacting with the local people while I was painting and learning more about the scene in front of me this way. I love painting outdoors because it creates a connection between me and the place; it’s as if I come to know the mountains, trees, etc.

CDH: What’s the most common question you hear about painting outdoors and/or your art?
VV: I’m often asked how long it takes me to complete a painting, or how long I have been a plein air painter. I have been painting all my life, and my typical smaller size watercolor takes 2 to 3 hours from start to finish.

Painting en plein air
A common scene at Plein Air on the Santa Cruz

Painting en plein air

Congratulations to the following “Plein Air on the Santa Cruz” show winners: 

Pam Wedemeyer 1st Place

Tom Blazier 2nd Place

Betsy Kimbrough 3rd Place

Maria Tuttle Honorable Mention

Priya Drews Honorable Mention

Select pieces from the show will continue to be on display at the Rancho Santa Cruz Gallery through December. For more information about this plein air event, please click here.

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