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How to torture a plein air painter...

By this time, we are all feeling the effects of the quarantine and being trapped indoors. But for folks like me, who HAVE TO be outside to be happy, it can be pure torture. Now, I don't want to sound melodramatic, and I realize what a big whiner I am since I'm quarantined in sunny Florida and have some money and food, not in an impoverished, crowded favela, but still...

I feel trapped at home.

Of course, I can still paint. And I have painted, and painted and painted more! If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook then you have probably seen the slew of new paintings I have paraded out over the passed few weeks. This is all good, but not really a challenge for a plein air painter.

When you are used to painting en plein air, you crave the challenge. The light shifts, wind blows the branches and makes the trees sway and Spanish moss dance...You feel the warmth of the sunlight and paint it that way. You feel the cool of the shadows and the light reflecting into them.

So what's a homebound gal to do?

Live Action Painting!

Whaaaat? I hear you ask?

Painting something while it is happening, for example. This is a video of a beautiful historic church near me in Dunedin that I took on my bicycle. I used this video to make the painting underneath it.

Now, its not drastically different than painting from a photo. But, a painting from a video, in my opinion, gives you more of a sense of place and time. You can feel the breeze and the warmth of the day. It isn't necessarily "live" but its the next best thing.

Right now, during quarantine, we all have to settle for the next best thing.

If you are not sure how to do this, find a video (YouTube has TONS) and set up your equipment to paint. Here's a few tips to help you tame the beast...

  1. Find the constants-things that don't change-like architecture or the "lay of the land" such as placement of trees, etc. Not the lights and darks.

  2. Make a value sketch of these things, with the lights and darks (no color)

  3. Watch the video and check out the color temperature; warm lights and cool shadows or vice versa on a cloudy day.

  4. Sketch the scene, laying in the static things that don't change.

  5. Commit to the light at that moment and go for it!

  6. Paint quickly and accurately and finish it alla prima (all at once)

Challenging yourself artistically is a great way to make yourself grow as an artist. Painting quickly shuts off the perfectionistic tendency and lets the painterly part of you shine through. If you get comfortable working from videos, then up the ante and start painting scenes while they are happening like children playing on the beach, a busy farm market, or other moving scene.

Artist Janet Howard Fatta in Warwick, NY, makes a good living doing live action painting of wedding receptions. Her paintings capture the scene, the feel, the light and the action of the moment.

Artist Keith Gunderson in New Paltz, NY, packs a small gouache set on the subway and paints fellow train passengers capturing their gesture and color.

Artist Peggi Kroll Roberts paints figures in motion on the beach and other places.

If you want to try it along with me, I have two fun online live action painting classes coming up this month on my website:

  • Tues. Apr. 28 1-3pm is a sunset painting class based on a video of the sun setting over the beach at Honeymoon Island. You can paint along with me and capture the scene.

  • Weds. Apr. 22 1-3pm is a painting of palm trees swaying in the breeze. Challenge yourself and paint along with me!

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