Plein Air means “Painting with both hands”for me


This past weekend I made my first attempt at Plein Air painting (En plein air (French pronunciation: ​[ɑ̃ plɛn ɛːʁ]), or plein air painting, is a phrase borrowed from the French equivalent meaning “open (in full)air“.).    

We were heading out to Joshua Tree for the Easter weekend and it seemed like a good idea for me to sit and paint while everyone else wandered around – hiking or taking photos.  So I asked around for suggestions and got some great tips.  Thank goodness for that, and thank you to everyone who chimed in on that.

I packed a couple of canvases, brushes and paints in my travel bag.  And we lugged my French Easel out to the dessert.  On Saturday, in the afternoon, we drove around the national forest looking for a good spot.  It was just in the 70’s this weekend, but no one was prepared for how dry it was.  Now don’t get me wrong, I know it’s a dessert.  For that reason it was recommended that I bring a spray bottle with water.  We’ve been to Joshua Tree a lot over the last decade and a half.  At one point we would camp nearly once a month out there, so I thought I knew what to expect.  But we all agreed it was the driest I’ve felt out there.  And we had the wind to contend with.

There was a bit of discussion on where I would set up.  I had a view I really liked, but I caved to the wisdom of setting up in the shade of a rock formation and used a view I was much less impressed with.  (And maybe that colored my experience as well).

So it took me 3 tries to just get the sky in.  When I sprayed the canvas, it would get wet in spots and the rest would be dry.  So, as I would bring a big blue stroke across the canvas, by the time I would come back the other way, it was “digging a hole” (painter term – see below*).  100_3070.JPG

Eventually, I figured out it was better to use the spray bottle to spray the paint in my wet pallet.  And I had pretty much flooded the sponge and paper in the wet pallet and still the paint was drying almost as fast as I could put it down.  And I had to move fast to get the paint up to the canvas before it dried on the brush.

4+ hours later and a lot of frustration, I had something done.  And I was pretty much done with the experience.  And I never figured out what I wanted to replace the cars and road with.


I may try this again sometime, but probably NOT in the desert.



*Digging a Hole:  In painting, if you try to take a brush with wet paint and apply it over paint on canvas that is partially dry it will start to lift off some of the original paint on the canvas – causing holes.



Stretch Goals and a nude man…


I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions.  Last one I made, over a decade ago, was that I would never make another one.  And I’ve stuck to it.   But I saw someone talking about making their resolutions to be about DOING more or BEING more, instead of giving up things and I figured I could get behind that kind of idea.

I decided to look towards what I call “Stretch Goals”.  In my mind, these are the types of things where I don’t necessarily think my skill level is ready for it, but that I want to STRETCH and reach to see how far I can get.

I was encouraged by an artist to check out a particular Life Drawing class.  Now I’m not a prude, but sitting in a room where everyone is staring at a naked person seemed a little strange to me. But I promised myself as soon as I was free on one of the scheduled nights, I’d go.   That free night was this week…and just my luck, it was the first male model of the year.

I like guys, especially attractive guys, but to sit and look at a stranger in the nude for three hours was completely outside of my comfort zone.  Add in it’s the first time I’m attempting to draw from a live model AND pretty much the first time I’m attempting to draw a person as all – and I couldn’t have been much more uncomfortable.

It’s important to note here, that I’ve met the person running the event / gallery a few times before and he really did a WONDERFUL job of making sure I was comfortable or had what I needed.  So it’s not on them at all.. just my own hang-ups.  But I managed.

The first 10 poses were VERY fast, and after the first sketch was little more than a clump of shapes and lines from me..I figured out I’d focus on trying to get something, but not the whole person.  Face and hair, line of the shoulder to the back, the legs…etc.  And that was more manageable.  Then the poses got progressively longer and I found I was working faster and getting most of the pose.  Until finally the last 2 poses were 25mins each and I figured out I would do better to focus on the shapes the shadows on him were making and letting that, along with leaving the highlights undone, created the person on my paper.

No, I don’t feel totally comfortable sharing what I drew.  But it was better than I expected..and that’s part of the point.  I think I might even go back in a few weeks and try it again.

Have you done anything towards your goals for the year?  Do you have a stretch goal?  I’d love to hear about it.