Almost like a concerto, somewhat like an overture, the sky silently plays above us. Clouds build up over our mountains causing never-ending chords of color and texture, their movement and shape pulled and twisted by unseen forces. Brooding, dark, and foreboding… wispy, shining, and brilliant…all in the same space and possibly at the same time.
My friend, Jolie, asked me, “What does your sky look like?” This is the start of our artistic conversation and my reply is in the photo below. You may read Jolie’s blog at this site: http://jolieguillebeau.com/
After Jolie asked her question, I looked outside at the greyness and thought, “No, not yet.” On the day the overcast finally broke, the temperature dropped, but I was determined to paint under the sky and not in my studio. Wind was blowing at a fair clip, so I decided to drive to a nearby airstrip and paint from the car, out of the wind. Staying out of the wind was a good idea, but painting in the car has permanently changed some of the interior.
I positioned the car at the end of the airstrip with a view of some clouds dancing across the northwestern sky, where the sun sets in the Alaskan summer. I sloshed paint over the paper, the car and myself for about twenty minutes, then rather dissatisfied with my work, started the car and turned down the airstrip. The western sky had turned into a mixture of radiant silver, brilliant blue, and a somber, almost bruised purple. I whipped out my camera and took a photo. Tonight, I painted in my studio with the image filling the computer screen and memories still fresh in my mind.
“Plein air” is a term artists use when they are going to paint outside or on location. Painting or drawing in the studio has always been my preference, not because I don’t like to be outdoors, but because subjects don’t move and the light stays constant.
Deep down, I am a coward. Attempts at drawing or painting on location have left me feeling humiliated. There is evidence proving my feelings are not skewed. People I’ve sketched tend to look like they just got out of rehab. I painted some men carrying a small boat and my dear husband said, “That guy is walking like his back hurts.” And he is right.
Last week, thinking four legs would surely be easier to paint than two, I sketched some neighborhood horses. Beautiful animals were turned into images that could have been used in “Animal Care Goes Wrong”.
People are excited to see an artist painting outdoors. They cannot help but be interested. They foolishly assume that holding a brush and standing at an easel gives me the ability to reproduce what is in front of me.
Brave individuals are accomplishing their dreams, writing about their journeys in their blogs. Because this is definitely an adventure, I have decided to paint and paint and paint outside all summer long, documenting my progress here. If I feel really brave, I shall begin to post images. I will begin by using my sketchbook because it is friendly and small. Then I will progress to quarter sheets of watercolor paper and my easel. For me, this is like driving a sports car then jumping into a semi. My goal is to gain confidence including people and animals in my paintings. I don’t want my future landscapes and cityscapes to look like a recent evacuation just occurred (or that the people are injured and on their way to a hospital).
If you happen to see me standing at my easel, sloshing paint about, please give a cheery wave. It will be most welcome!