"En Plein Air" simply means "outdoors" and when you paint outdoors you deal with a completely different set of circumstances than painting in the studio. First of all the light is natural and better. Thumbs up! However, you also deal with bugs, wind, sunburn, and a whole host of other challenges that you don't have painting indoors. Painting in the studio is fun, no doubt, but not nearly as much fun as painting outside.
Today was the first Rippavilla Painting Class en plein air. What a blast!
Under the huge, old shade trees of Rippavilla Plantation, eight students and I practiced making our own value charts and color wheels. Personal experimentation is revealing and, once you get into it, immensely engaging.
We also painted a study of a landscape using John Carlson's approach to the values assigned to the four planes. It's only one approach to landscapes, but it is my approach and I wanted to offer this process to the students as one way of painting the great outdoors.
Within a matter of minutes it was easy to spot the alle prima painters in the group. Our group will filled with artists with leanings toward realism, impressionism, cubism, and abstract. They were all beautiful and filled with elements I envy.... texture, color, bold and deliberate brushstrokes.
Not only did we discover some real talent in our midst, but the creative spark ignited in many of the students, and they produced work they didn't know they were capable of producing. As an instructor, this is what makes teaching WORTH WHILE!!
"Art is a thing of the imagination and of the soul."
You start by making a transparent wash in a medium value and using a large brush or paper towel, paint an "underpainting on your canvas."
Next make a simple drawing on your canvas, paying particular attention to the exact location, size and shape of all the masses you plan to include in your artwork. You don't have to include everything. This is your painting. Don't go into any detail. This step in the process is really all about the design of the overall painting.
By mid-day we were hungry, windburned and exhausted, but we had fun and had lovely, original paintings to show for our time together. Each student also recieved a complimentary ticket to tour Rippavilla, to use today or any day in the next 18 months.
I'm grateful to everyone who chose to spend the morning with me and my hope is that they will take the skills they learned and keep painting. In John Carlson's book, "Guide to Landscape Painting," he tells us that
...the art of painting, properly speaking, can not be taught, and therefore cannot be learned. Only certain means can be discussed. I believe about art, as I believe about music and architecture, that the only way to study is to practice. No one can teach art. No one can give a singer a glorious voice. As the instructor we can only share with the students a few logical and teachable aids and technical advice involved in the creation of art. Art is a thing of the imagination and of the soul.
It is a splendid thing to spend the morning in the company of great students. Great students agree and disagree. They stir the waters, and we all learn from our time together. If you would like to join us this summer, select a class date and contact me to reserve your easel (firstname.lastname@example.org). Dates to choose from include May 19 and June 16. The class fee of $50 includes instruction, demonstration, all supplies, and a ticket to tour Rippavilla. There is even a surprise or two thrown in.
What better way to spend a Saturday morning than with new friends under the shade trees of a restored, antebellum plantation learning to paint en plein air??
Rippavilla is located in Spring Hill, Tennessee, just south of Nashville, along the Antebellum Trail.
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