The sun is shining, the air is warm and the days are long...must be time to get out the field easel and head off to the great outdoors. Now this might seem a daunting prospect to some ...and it is especially if you are fairly new to painting. However I promise you that the joys and rewards of making the effort are well worth it. So here are a few little pointers from my first experience that I hope will whet your appetite to give it a go. The very first time - ah I remember it well. I had finally plucked up the resolve and loaded up the car. Off we went heading out for the wilds of the North Yorks Moors National Park. I chose Bransdale as the first location for an outdoor masterpiece. Good choice. I had a 4 x 4 in those days so headed up the road marked 'Dale head Only' and when the tarmac ran out just merrily carried on up the track for another few minutes or so until I found the perfect spot miles from anywhere and best of all - completely deserted with nobody in sight. Setting up is fun - getting the easel just right, taping your paper down and board in position. A few minor adjustments to get the view exactly right, lay out your brushes and palette and you are ready to paint. I did all this and made a reasonable sketch of the moors sweeping down from the dale head under a dramatic sky. Why - I felt like a 'proper' artist. Time to paint then and I very quickly found out that watercolour paint behaves differently outdoors from the controlled conditions of the studio. For a start it was a hot day and the paper dried very quickly making my usual technique for doing skies unworkable. I paint skies in large free washes but with the paper drying so fast all I got was a mess of the dreaded hard lines and 'cauliflower' bleed backs. I re-wet it and re-wet it, reworked it and reworked it until I had some semblance of a sky that would have to do. It became a grim struggle and I realised I was losing the battle. To make matters worse, would you believe a group of walkers appeared and made a beeline for me. They were very polite and made encouraging comments about my effort but I knew and they knew that the painting was a disaster. Did this put me off from ever painting outside again? Strangely no, for when I looked back at the experience I found I had actually enjoyed it. The painting might not have been brilliant but I could learn from my mistakes and being outside all day just absorbing and being absorbed in the beauty of the scene in front of me had been spiritually uplifting. Unfortunately I haven't got a visual record of that first outdoor painting which is a shame. "Into the Sun at Scarborough Harbour" was painted outside. The weather was really hot on the harbour side and there was quite a crowd watching but I was and still am pleased with this. Here's a few more early outdoor paintings:
So enjoy the bugs on your paper and the grass in your palette and get out there - you will not regret it. Glenn
Professional artist now semi retired and enjoying being eccentric!