Utah painter Ryan S. Brown wouldn’t ever want to do without plein air painting, but he doesn’t sell pieces done on location. Why?
“I paint en plein air because there are things I want to know,” says Brown. “I’m interested in the movement of water, how bubbles go under and then up in a stream, moss on rocks, how leaves look in various degrees of direction to the light. I’m interested in learning things that I can apply in the studio.”

“Fallen Tree Study,” by Ryan S. Brown, oil, 9 x 12 in.

When he was learning his craft, his guiding lights were Schmid, Christensen, and Matt Smith. “Those were the artists people in college were saying I should look at,” says Brown. “They were my only reference for landscape painting. Early on I adopted the idea that you had to go out and make a painting. But making something frameable was frustrating. I don’t really like making paintings from life. Design, composition, color harmonies — all the aesthetics of a painting I prefer to consider in the studio. When I’m painting from life, I’m trying to understand the visual effects in front of me. But the fun of making a painting for me is knowing I have all the information I need, then making the painting, bringing all the aesthetics and design to it.”

“High Falls, Adirondacks,” by Ryan S. Brown, oil, 9 x 12 in.

He isn’t a reluctant plein air painter. He is a diligent one. “I was doing sunset studies this summer — I did 24 of them, learning how light hits clouds in that 40 minutes at the end of the day,” says Brown. “Now I am going back and reworking all the sunsets I’d painted in the past that to me look stupid. I knew how to manipulate colors to make them pretty, but I never really knew how to paint a sunset until I did those studies from life.”

“Hobble Creek,” by Ryan S. Brown, oil, 12 x 16 in.

“Oak Hollow Forest Interior,” by Ryan S. Brown, oil, 9 x 12 in.

Brown is a teacher with many credentials, including the completion of the program at the Florence Academy, three years with the Hudson River Fellowship, and three years as an instructor at the Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE). At PACE 2017, he’ll be painting a demo, a figure in the landscape, most likely on a composition that he has previously laid in. He will explain his use of plein air painting.

“Payson Lake,” by Ryan S. Brown, oil, 12 x 16 in.

“For me, painting from life is about learning,” Brown reiterates. “I’m not in a rush to finish; I will return two or three times to a location to get it. I can settle into a thing and be more purposeful, more focused on a subject — I usually have a really specific subject to figure out. It is a focused pursuit with no other goal in mind other than satisfying something that I feel I really need to know. I’m not looking for compositions but looking to figure out a nagging problem that I wasn’t solving in the studio. I will find a spot, say, studying water, and do a study of that on a stream near me, then solve the problem in the painting that I was doing from imagination in the studio. Yes, I could just make it up, but that never works. If you don’t know … you don’t know.”

“Sacred Grove Study,” by Ryan S. Brown, oil, 9 x 12 in.

Brown says he is looking forward to attending PACE in San Diego, a city he has visited but hasn’t painted in. “I imagine it will be great. Nice museum, good weather, great tacos.”


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here