Painting in the field is one of life’s great pleasures.
I love getting out of the studio into my other studio – the great outdoors. It has it’s challenges, but painting in the field is an important part of being an artist. Even if your paintings aren’t based on plein air painting, being able work outside rounds out your studio practice.
One of the best things is that out in the field is that on a clear day, you can see forever.
Forever is a long way in the Australian bush. Imagine this: I’m out in a paddock. All around me is landscape.
I can see the shearing shed and the trees and the sky and the birds and the grass and the sheep and the wool on the sheep and the eyes of the sheep and the eyelashes on the eyes of the sheep. I can see everything, given enough time. The longer I have there, the more I see.
If it wanted to I could paint 100 different paintings from the same view, so where do I start?
How to choose what to paint
Find a comfy spot.
Point your eyes straight ahead
Paint what you see.
When you get to the edge of the page, or when it’s time to have a cup of tea, stop
It’s as simple as that. Of course there are other things to take into account, a whole raft of technique and process etc. but choosing a subject is simply about where you put your chair.
Try this at home
Set a timer for 5 minutes.
Sit your chair in the middle of a space
Point it in a particular direction. Starting in the middle of the page, draw what’s in front of you, working outwards, until the timer goes off.
Turn your chair 90 degrees , repeat
Then again, and again.
You’ve now made 4 sketches. You probably started with the obvious view. The others are options too.
Opportunities for subjects are everywhere
We don’t need to travel overseas or to “picturesque” places to make “proper art” or to be a “proper” artist. We can make artwork about whatever we’ve got in front of us.
If we are in the middle of the paddock we can choose where we put our chair, based on our experience of painting shearing sheds. But we are always open to other views of the world. Some of my favourite paintings have been that other view, the second view. (Terry Pratchett, the great philosopher gave Granny Weatherwax the option to even have a third look at a situation, which gave her her legendary wisdom. We can all learn from our inner Granny Weatherwax)
Out in the paddock, painting in the open air, on a clear day you can see forever.
With a clean piece of paper you can choose which bits of forever you are going to keep.
That’s what being an artist is all about.
READ Other Blog posts about painting in the field
Feature image: “The Yards” (detail)2018 watercolour (colour filtered out) original size76x56