Art In History Art Blog
One of the great pleasures I get from plein-air painting is the oportunity to interact with very special places. It isn't just that these places stimulate me to paint them. Of course they do, and the paintngs then become a wonderful trigger for memories of the place and the experience. But beyond this, the time spent in those places is therapeutic in itself, and the hour is well spent even if the painting fails.
For me, there seem to be three kinds of special places. The first are familiar places with an endless appeal, places which show me new pictures each time I visit them. I count among these the northern Berkshires (my family home), the Adirondacks and the coast of Maine. I return to each of these places every year, and there is a richness and depth that comes with revisiting them again and again.
The second kind of special place is the unfamiliar. Painting expeditions to new places, especially places with a type of landscape foreign to my experience, always get my painting juices going, and provide new challenges. Since painting from nature is in a large part developing an idiom to translate a very conplex reality into a readable equivalent, and new type of reality forces me to search for a new idiom, a new method of selection and translation.
Past expeditions have included the British Isles, the Canadian Rockies, and Mexico. Most recently I have returned from a two-week trip to Portugal and Southern Spain (I did 25 paintings!). It is ironic in the light of my previous post, where I decribed the advantages of overcast days; here I had to deal with intense sunlight and bright blue skies. Perhaps in my next post I will talk about how I organized my kit for the trip.
The last kind of special place is "just being in nature". I often set up my box within the sound of a stream or waterfall, so that the sound is a part of my painting experience. Set up at the edge of a meadow, I have the infinite variety of smells to mix with the visual experience. This is one reason that a photograph simply can't do for you what being there can. If you are in need of refreshment for your soul, just take your box into the fields and paint!