You can take the artist out of the great outdoors, but you can’t take the plein air approach out of the painter. Case in point: Dave Santillanes.
Lead Image: “Honolua Bay,” by Dave Santillanes, oil, 12 x 16 in.
Santillanes will be offering a demo on the big stage at the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE), scheduled for April 15-19 at El Conquistador Resort in Tucson, Arizona. He will likely be paired with another painter and kindred soul as part of a painting duo. Perhaps they will work on the same subject matter. Perhaps Santillanes will demonstrate his plein air style indoors, as he has done at other events.
For this type of demo, the Colorado artist simply brings in a piece he has done on location and repaints it on the spot. “Generally what I like to do onstage is take a plein air painting and deconstruct it, tell what I was thinking at each stage,” says Santillanes. “I’ve heard that this kind of demo helps people the next time they are out painting. I talk about what I was doing at each point, but also, what I was thinking. I discuss how I began, what my thought process was as I was getting into it. I repaint the piece right beside the finished painting.”
Sounds hard. Does Santillanes take notes when painting such a piece, so he can remember and explain each step well? “The notes are there in the brushwork,” he says. “If you sit in front of a scene for 90 minutes, you remember everything about it. You remember where you sat, the animals you saw. I remember exactly what happened and exactly where I was for each plein air painting. I have always considered my plein air work as a virtual diary of that day, of that moment. It’s easy for me to talk about a painting because I recall everything.”
Neither is it difficult for Santillanes to transition from plein air to indoors. “My thought process in the studio is not that much different from what happens outdoors,” says the artist. “The language is the same, the process is the same. Outdoors, you have about an hour to paint — you had better get what you can and not overanalyze every part of it. Sometimes I end up with a better composition outdoors than when I have three days in the studio to think about it. The brevity of the study is part of the beauty. You get all of this information with the briefest brushwork. It’s very easy to overwork a studio painting, and the worst-case scenario is that it gets a very static feel to it.”
To summarize, Santillanes’s presentation at PACE will be designed to offer insight into the artist’s thinking outdoors. It’s a line of thought that is important to him. “Sometimes I almost think the painting is secondary to the whole experience,” he says. “The painting becomes paramount in the studio. But you can’t help but feel an attachment to a scene you painted outdoors that you probably wouldn’t feel otherwise.”
To find out more about the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE) and to register for the April event, go here.