Saturday, June 3, 2017

328: The Mystery of Plein Air Painting

–"YOU can't till you can" sounds like a quip from baseball's low-brow philosopher Yogi Bera. But it's actually a quote from ├╝ber-intellectual and color theorist Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe. What he meant is that there is often an inexplicable alchemy that, after a long duration, allows you to do what you previously couldn't.

I recently crossed into that territory with my plein air paintings after a long dry spell. People were kind to me, telling me that my plein air paintings were fine. But in my gut, I knew the paintings lacked some essential ingredient. So how did I close the gap between my studio and my plein air paintings? Did I dive intently into painting in the field creating painting after painting without regard to success? Did I study everything I could find about the subject until I couldn't cram anything else into my brain?

I took none of those reasonable steps. I basically failed at a plein air event in the summer of 2014 and didn't do another plein air painting until a week ago. I didn't practice, study, or think about plein air painting in any way. Until waking up one day last week and walking up a nearby canyon with my plein air gear I had experienced zero success with plein air painting–because I made no attempt to succeed. But that evening I set up my easel and with effort as easy as breathing I knocked out a passable painting, large for a field painting, as if I had been painting en plein air for a decade.

I mention this transformation because I haven't read of any parallels in the success literature I tend to peruse. Plus, I like narratives that contravene convention. Plus, I'm thrilled, if mystified, by my transformation. In the end, art is more magic than science, more alchemy than chemistry. I'm thankful for that.

In the following video, I make a few corrections to my plein air painting. Here is a link to the clips I use to transport my paintings.

Brad Teare –June 2017

View from City Creek, plein air, 24" x 24", oil on canvas, available at Anthony's Fine Art


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