Sunday, July 8, 2012

Plein Air Painting at Sovereign House

This summer I am teaching some Plein Air classes, painting in watercolours at lovely Sovereign House, where I have myannual summer art show.  For three hours we paint, choosing one of the picturesque views of the house, woods, lake or garden.
  With thundery overcast skies last week we set up on the covered front porch and painted the flowers against the picket fence.
 I began by roughing in the two masses of flowers, the bergamot and the day lilies, plus some accompanying foliage.  The little paint box is an old friend, small but very serviceable. 
After drawing the fence posts and considering background possibilities, I decided to mask the fence and the lily flowers.  Note the jar of soapy water - it is important to frequently clean the masking fluid from the brush with soapy water, every thirty seconds or so, to save the brush from utter ruin.

Even great masking fluid is touchy. If smudged before it has completely dried it leaves an ugly stain on the page that won't come off at the later stages. I accidentally smudged a bit of still-wet masking fluid with my knuckle here, among the flowers. The only options are to go ahead and work with it, or to start all over with clean paper.  I went ahead with a background wash of three greens for a blurred effect above and beyond the fence.

 When that background was well and truly dry I peeled off the masking fluid,  which brought us to the uphill in-between stage, when the background still seems to dominate and the foreground must be defined with multiple hues and values.  Vision and stubbornness are called for here, the finished painting is not really so far off!

Many shades later and the garden has come to life.  This is not a highly detailed painting, but an on-the-spot interpretation of the garden in quick brush strokes. 
The last stage - cutting the finished painting from the board.  Once the painting has completely dried use a steel ruler and an exacto-type knife to cut along the perimeter, where the painting meets the tape.  The edges of the paper that lie below the tape get left behind.  There's probably a metaphor for life in that, and there is  philosophy  in painting.  To quote Sir Winston Churchill, "We must not be too ambitious. We cannot aspire to masterpieces. We may content ourselves with a joy ride in a paint box. And for this, Audacity is the only ticket."