As a painter using both oils and pastels, I always wanted to be accomplished at painting “en plein air”. However, I was also a person who got sunburned easily, hated bugs, was terrified of snakes not to mention the big bull out in the field, didn’t like being hot, and wanted the necessary facility nearby. Thus my few forays into setting up by the side of the road or in a field all too often ended up with bugs in my painting, the whole easel blowing over, or myself covered in oil paint after dragging my sweater through the cobalt blue paint.
“En plein air” is simply the act of painting outdoors and is based on a French expression meaning “open air”. It is usually associated with French Impressionists as well as the Barbizon school and spread into the USA through the Hudson River Valley Group among others. One of the major elements associated with painting from life outdoors is the interest in the light and what it does to objects as that light changes. The style associated with en plein air is usually loose with heavy texture, wet into wet, and quickly executed in one setting before the light changes. However, many “plein air” painters will return to the same setting at the same time of day and spend more time on the painting yielding either larger works or more detailed works with wet applied on dry paint. Claude Monet was said to have had multiple canvases for each subject and would go from one canvas to another canvas as the light moved, coming back the next day to paint more on each canvas.
Several of the artists featured in this month’s show “Fayette County Through Artists’ Eyes” have excelled in the “en plein air” concept and several paintings were done on site. However, even if not a pure “en plein air” artist, all of them have spent time in the open with their subjects, taking photos, doing sketches or color notes, and gathering the mental impressions that would influence how they approached and completed each painting.
I hope that you can visit the gallery to see this collection of wonderful impressions of the beautiful landscapes of Fayette County as well as the buildings and scenes from several of its towns and cities. The artists who will be showing are Polly Cisneros of La Grange, Kathy Sauer of Fayetteville, Jean Blais Oliver of New Ulm, Enid Wood of Bastrop, Joel Ganucheau and Darryl Freeman of Austin, Chris Chappell of Denton, and Janis Ellison of Grants Pass, Oregon.
Inspired by Festival Hill: Enid Wood
“Festival Hill Fountain” was painted from a photo taken while on a painting trip to Round Top. “I felt hot from painting outdoors in the summer sun for two hours. Seeing that fountain in the shade immediately afterwards was exactly the cool relief that I needed. The colors in the water and in the shadows thrilled me. Figuring out how to portray the sheets of water and the water droplets formed and interesting challenge.”