The relatively shallow space between our eyes and the ground is a haven of interesting textures, colors, and aromas, especially for plein air painters. Bethann Moran-Handzlik explains.
BY BETHANN MORAN-HANDZLIK
When my children were young I spent a great deal of time, like so many mothers do, looking down; looking at the sidewalk, the leaves against the grass, the place where the houses meet the earth. By looking down I could see my toddler in my peripheral vision.
I could stoop to reach nearly everything in my visual field; so intimate. A gardener knows this kind of immediacy, kneeling in the earth, digging, harvesting, planting. While painting “Dreaming of Windflowers” I could reach out and trail my hand delicately over the floating blossoms at arm’s length.
The relatively shallow space between our eyes and the ground is a haven of interesting textures, colors, and aromas. This shallow space doesn’t project us into the future or the past; it is a very present tangible space. It is like sitting with a friend and gently touching them when speaking or catching a whiff of their breath.
That is how I felt painting these roses below. I loved it so much I went back to paint a larger , 28×32-inch version.
In a shallow depth painting we can account for the scale and proportion in a direct way. The term en plein air, to paint in the “open air,” often suggests the broader landscape; the sweeping vistas that we can only reach with our eyes.
I love to paint the vista; it moves my heart in ways a shallow depth painting cannot. And yet it is the humble shallow spaces that I have been exploring in my plein air work.
Some of the spaces are wild and some cultivated. The painting starts inches from where I stand. In the case of “Wild Astor’s at the Elk Farm” (below) I took off my shoes and included them within the scene.
The shallow space stops our eye from traveling further; calling us perpetually back to the moment, the fragrance and the intimate visual feat right before us.
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