This article was originally published in the third issue of VIA Noke Magazine, printed in Roanoke, Virginia in October 2012.
Written by Judy Lochbrunner & the Double Line Painters of the Blue Ridge
Painting outside (plein air) is the ultimate way to enjoy the outdoors while challenging yourself to record in an art work a sense of place and time. Light constantly changes and demands that the artist work quickly and make decisions on what it is about the location that has inspired the artist.
Here in Western Virginia beautiful scenery is everywhere from sweeping mountain views to quiet places among the rocks or trees. Simply walking a favorite trail or local park will provide lots of inspiration. And taking the time to carefully examine and transferring that impression to paint and paper creates a “recollection” that contains all the senses.
Public parks and spaces are a good place to start by sitting on a bench, carrying a simple camping stool to the location, or just spreading an old blanket on the ground. Avoid blocking sidewalks, trails or a right-of-way. Never set up on private property without the property owner’s permission. Always use common sense and stay safe with drinking water, sunscreen, hat, bug repellant, cell phone, etc.
Start simple with expectations; focus on making a visual journal or diary and not a masterpiece or even a finished piece. Make a simple view finder by cutting a rectangle out of a piece of paper to help simplify the choices for the scene and reduce the frustration of trying to paint too much. Don’t be concerned what others may think or say just enjoy the activity. It can be fun and helpful to ask a friend to then share ideas and feelings.
The same simple approach applies to materials. Plan to begin with a sketchbook and a small set of colored pencils, markers, conte crayons or even just a basic pencil and eraser. Most artist sketchbooks are made for any dry media and will provide a good workable surface. It will be worth the investment in making the process easier.
Allow yourself the opportunity to explore, experiment and enjoy. And yes, it does take practice so don’t judge too harshly. Just get out and enjoy yourself while making art.
The Double Line Painters of the Blue Ridge are Judy Lochbrunner, Sue Furrow, Angela Shields, Martha Lalka, Linda Schaar, Bonnie Mason, Mary Anne Meador, and Midge Ovenshire. Visit their blog at doublelinepaintersoftheblueridge.blogspot.com