London plein air artist Clementine St. John Webster
London plein air artist Clementine St. John Webster

Clementine St John Webster, classical artist (born 1989) grew up with her family in the deep countryside of Wiltshire and Somerset in the UK, a life of picnics on ponies, and running wild, the youngest of four.

After a formal education at Cheltenham College then Oxford University, with an emphasis on art, math, and science, she studied classical painting and drawing at the London Atelier from 2014 to 2016, began life as a full-time professional artist in 2016.

Plein air painting by Clementine St. John Webster

In her own words: “There’s nothing I love more than pushing through the undergrowth, walking miles to find a view, a landscape or a scene, then setting up my easel to paint manically before the light goes.”

A zest for travel has taken Clementine to Kenya and Uganda, tea plantations in Sri Lanka, Normandy beaches, Cornish clifftops, and racecourses in Ireland.

Plein air painting by Clementine St. John Webster

She was planning to capture vivid scenes of horses, hounds, and people in Pakistan for her second solo show at the Osborne Studio Gallery, but enforced lockdown kept Clementine confined to a friend’s country house in North Yorkshire.

Clementine’s plein air setup

Here’s more of what Clementine has to say about her plein air painting experiences:

MY PROCESS

Over the years I have developed a compact painting kit, to capture on the instant any hill or lively street scene. My rucksack has many an added strap.

By trial and error I acquired the lightest and strongest tripod, ordered boxes to be made with different size slots, to carry home a wet painting safely secured in my rucksack.

My hands are left free to clamber over rocks or navigate the complex routes of a subway.

Plein air painting by Clementine St. John Webster

PAINTING

On arrival at a location I tint the canvas with a strong colour (often a pinkish orange) that I hope will illuminate the canvas, and  that I might not be brave enough to add later.

I paint a quick outline or skylines, then separate lights and darks. I make sure the edges are correct, so much can be changed in a painting by simply softening or sharpening an edge. Landscapes or scenes are mostly completed quickly; I sketch while the scene moves. Sometimes I ask a bystander to hold a horse, for example.

I use oil paint, linseed, turpentine, linen canvas (sometimes stretched, sometimes stuck on board), wood, copper, and gold leaf.

Plein air painting by Clementine St. John Webster
Plein air painting by Clementine St. John Webster
Plein air painting by Clementine St. John Webster
Plein air painting by Clementine St. John Webster

Upcoming Exhibition: Clementine St John Webster has a solo exhibition at Osborne Studio Gallery, London from September 29 through October 10, 2020. The exhibition includes landscapes, seascapes, garden scenes, and equine art, including horses on their own, on the moors, and in racing scenes.


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