Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Fumbling En Plein Air

That's what my first 2010 outside sketching adventure felt like this past weekend--fumbling.


On the ground, nearly eye level with Virginia Bluebells, Bluets and some kind of unsavory large orange ants, I created a pencil sketch of the bluebells before retreating to a nearby stump to continue sketching.


I learn so much each time I try sketching outdoors--lessons in organization, coordination, focus, to name a few, and let's don't leave out memory or personality insights.

Virginia Bluebells

I forgot my water container.  And nope, there was no paper towel or tissue to soak up excess water from my juiciest of brushes.  But I did bring water in a small bottle and this served as a container.  It wasn't like I was miles away from the forgotten supplies, but I treated this experience just as if I were far away.  There's no better way to impress the memory.


We were having a low 80's day with no leaves yet on our budding trees.  More than an hour into my sketching, the late afternoon sun became uncomfortable and I dropped my paint brush.  Now, dropping a paint brush isn't normally a big deal.  It's not unusual for me to flip the brush out of my hand at least once while sketching.  But when I retrieved it this time, it was coated with clumps of muddy earth.  That was it!  I retreated back to the predictability of my kitchen.

Plein air still feels overwhelming to me at the moment.  But want-to is all that's needed to get through this and that, I have plenty of.  A few challenges seem obvious, like having the right tools on hand, finding a comfortable place to work, making a decision about just what out of all this wonderful nature you will choose for a subject.  Practice, of course, will do its magic on these.

And what you learn on these small adventures about sketching and yourself, far out weighs the awkwardness of the moment.  For example, I noticed I hurry when I feel uneasy but my natural style is to take my time.   I'll be aware and remember to breathe next time.   And the size of my initial bluebell sketch didn't lend itself to the kind of detail I enjoy, especially with the size brush I had on hand.  So I'll pack a smaller brush in my kit and remember that ink and graphite are other possibilities for this detail.  My goal is to enjoy both the effort and the result.


It's a bit like learning an entirely different skill set.  No one can teach this to you any more than another person can teach you your style. It's for you to explore and discover.  What you see, how you express it, and how you decide to put it all together will be all your own.  And in the outdoors with nature, the possibilities for this are endless!

For a brief and interesting history lesson on the term and the factors that began the en plein air movement, visit this Wiki link.  You may also enjoy seeing other sketchbook pages at Vickie Henderson Art, and my Red Shouldered Hawk sketchbook.

For other fun styles and sketching experiences visit these blogs:  Drawing the MotmotSketching in Nature and South Carolina Low Country Nature Journaling and Art.

12 comments:

  1. You had me laughing Vickie! Don't we ALL go through this that choose to take on plein air! I once forgot my COLOURS at home! So had to be content with just sketching - and try leaving your sketch-book at home! But you did a LOVELY job nevertheless!

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  2. What a lovely journal entry, Vickie! I wasn't able to comment on Sketching in Nature this morning, hope I have better luck here!

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  3. Wow! I'm amazed at your talent! How did you add the white at the base of the trees?

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  4. Love the "stick-with-it-ness" and that's what it takes! Thanks for sharing and making it real.

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  5. don't forget the sunscreen. or cookies. marge

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  6. What a great share you are doing on your process... I really need to get out there and practice, practice, practice. Thanks for the encouragement and challenge.

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  7. What a lovely blog you have here. Beautiful! And it's so nice that you share the whole process and not just the finished result. I love the sketches I have seen so far! I will definately be coming back!

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  8. Thank you, everyone!

    Cindy, the white is created by splattering gouache with a toothbrush. I used both cobalt blue mixed with white gouache and white gouache alone.

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  9. Great pages of various stages! I have an new travel palette just like yours that I need to add paint to. What colors do you have in your palette?

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  10. Thanks, Debo.

    Colors in this palette are:
    WN Transparent Yellow, DVP Cad. Yellow light, WN New Gamboge, WN Quinacridone Gold,WN Raw Sienna, WN Permanent Rose, Daniel Smith Carmine, WN Van Dyke Brown, WN Burn Sienna, WN Sepia, WN ultramarine, DVP Cobalt, WN Cerulean, DVP Sap Green.

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  11. Thanks for sending me the colors in your palette...you paint such wonderful things with them! I need to just go ahead and fill up the wells in my palette...I always over-think these things too much...as if it can never be changed or revised!

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Welcome! I am glad to hear your comments, questions and feedback! Vickie

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