Thursday, September 22, 2011

Across the Lake at the Post Oak Preserve (en plein air)

"Across the Lake"
Mark Nesmith
Oil on Canvas
12" x 24"
With the busy schedule I keep these days, it's not often that I get to paint outdoors on location (or as the French put it, en plein air.)  When I was in college and just learning to paint I spent many mornings, afternoons, and even a few nights outside at the easel painting the landscape.  I believe the insight into light, color, and atmosphere gained from those formative painting excursions was invaluable.  While I am certainly not an anti-photographic artist, cameras just don't do justice to the subtle interplays and depth of color and the sense of space one senses when working from life.  My habits these days demand working in the studio, both for artistic and practical reasons, but when my family went out of town for a few days without me this summer I couldn't pass up the opportunity to strike out with a folding easel and a box of paints.

Near my home in Seagoville is the Post Oak Preserve, a densely wooded section of old growth oaks that is used and maintained by the Dallas ISD.  The Preserve is part of the D.I.S.D. Environmental Learning Center which hosts seminars and educational field trips there.  Throughout the woods are hiking trails (some paved for cycling on the weekends), along with numerous small clearings.  The Preseve is populated with all manner of wildlife and makes a wonderful family hike that's close to home.  Near the south end of the preserve is a small 19-acre lake. 

I hiked through the woods to the lake, easel and canvas in hand and paints and brushes in my back pack.  I set up in a small clearing and spent several hours painting the opposite shore.  Painting outside on location demands a quick approach.  The light is constantly changing.  I find it helpful to mass in the main shadows and color scheme very broadly right at the beginning.  To complete this size canvas in a short time I minimized details and kept the brush loosey goosey.  I tend to premix several colors and variations on my palette to speed things along as well.   Painting outdoors has it's charms, and it can be a very meditative and peaceful way to spend the day.  I don't expect that I'll turn into an open air impressionist anytime soon, but I do find that the plein air practice really pays off when I'm back in my studio.

1 comment:

  1. You captured the luminous quality of the water beautifully.
    Painting in plein air is much work but can be so rewarding.