Our third Plein Air class was in the middle of very quiet Amish countryside, near New Wilmington, PA. The three of us stood within in a fairly small area but all chose different views, so came away with three totally different paintings.
I liked these big trees overshadowing the farmhouse buildings, with the big barn a little closer to me. There were numerous Amish buggies coming and going, and horses being used to plow the fields, so almost the only noise was of horses’ hooves. Altogether a very peaceful three hours of painting.
For our second 3 hour lesson we went to a rural area and found a pumpkin field. One fascinating aspect of painting outdoors with other people is that we can stand in a small area together and produce totally different paintings!
My choice of view and subject was based on the pumpkins leading up to the white barns, which are silhouetted by the dark trees. I also liked including the distant hills. I had a strong sense of representing the feel of what was in front of me rather than the exact image. To that end I ‘moved’ the pumpkins around quite a bit!
A few weeks after arriving in Pennsylvania, I visited the Hoyt Art Center in New Castle, PA and found that they offer 4 classes in Plein Air painting. This seemed like a good opportunity for learning and encouragement, so I signed up!
The teacher, Nancy Hawkins , is a kind and gentle lady, who gave useful instruction and good encouragement. On the first lesson I was the only student! We sat on the back patio of the lovely Hoyt Art building for three hours and painted this view to the south. It was exhilarating!
Another delightful half-hour spent observing and recording nature, this time at a camping site in northern Ohio. I challenged myself to use only knives and blades again (like the last painting at Lake Erie). I rather the like the top version best, before I added the tree trunks!
We’re on a camping trip to the east coast. I brought my pochade box and spent a delightful hour sitting on the southern shore of Lake Erie at sunset, painting this little study. I had decided to challenge myself by bringing only knives and blades (no brushes), so the painting is a little rougher as a result, but the sensation of sweeping paint across the surface was lovely. We stayed to watch the sun finally sink below the horizon-glorious!
These paintings were all done from the front seat of my van. Is it ‘plein air’ if the window is closed? (I think the window might have been open though! We have had weeks of gloriously clear, sunny, warm weather) It seems the important aspect is to be looking at the real object in its real life setting. The first one is on the Indiana University campus in Bloomington, IN. It took me about 30 minutes.
Acrylic on hardboard, 6 x 6 inches
The second painting is also on the IU campus, done on a different day. I loved the morning shadows on the building, but feel I didn’t paint them quite how I wanted.
Acrylic on hardboard, 6 x 6 inches
I tried again the next week, using watercolor in my art journal. I like this one better. I think it was helpful to include the big tree that is casting the shadows on the building. Perhaps I was better at drawing it the second time. Perhaps the vertical format is more suitable? Total absorption for one beautiful hour!
My second attempt! On this occasion our family went to a local park and the other members played disc golf while I painted, from a picnic table.
I was experimenting with using a palette or painting knife. It was fun and rather freeing! It brings different expectations. I also really enjoyed scraping out with the knife.
At first I tried to capture the sun setting behind the trees, casting lovely shadows and golden patterns on the grass. Then I tried to paint the sunset before it disappeared. It really seemed to be moving fast!
I like the sky painting better. It seems almost abstract and yet I know what it is.
(I should not have left the date setting on on my camera! I know now to remember to remove it for paintings.)
This is my first attempt at real plein air painting, done in July 2017. We were on a 3 week family camping trip around the northeast and I brought my pochade box along for all 3400 miles! It was surprisingly difficult to find enough solitary, quiet time to concentrate on a painting. Plus maybe I was a little afraid of the process.
At a campground near Philadelphia I got up before everyone else one morning and painted this view from our picnic table. The early sun was lovely on the trees just beyond the pond. It’s pretty rough, but it reminds me of the peace of the moment.
Over this winter my husband built me a new and improved pochade box! We just finished it last week. It is modeled on the shoebox pochade box that I made last summer. The sides are pine, with a plywood base and lid.
The lid has an overhang at the back, which was a happy accident. He made the lid too large on purpose, intending to trim it to the size of the box. While we were trying to decide on a mechanism to hold the lid open at the right angle for painting, I opened it one day and found that the remaining overhang rested on the back of the box and supported it at just the right angle! Like this…
Inside, he put a small ledge on 3 sides, to support a palette (actually I’m resting my Masterson Sta-Wet Handy Palette on it).
The water container is a baby food jar.
Under the palette support I can fit all my supplies!
I took it on a weekend trip last weekend. Here’s what it looks like in use:
It rests on my lap very securely (we experimented quite a bit with the size and weight to achieve this). Here’s the first painting I did using it, of the Mississippi River from my hotel room. (I felt too self-conscious just yet to venture out to paint in a busy city, although I did take my watercolor supplies and sit out by a nearby lake and paint).
I’m hoping for lots more outdoor adventures with the new box this summer!
One of my goals for this summer is to learn to paint outside–en plein air. I looked into wooden pochade boxes and decided they were too expensive for an experiment, so I thought about making my own, but ran out of time. In the end I more quickly made my own version from an old shoebox. It’s working out pretty well!
I attached a ribbon to the sides and across the outside of the lid, using staples and strong glue. The ribbon stops the lid from flopping backwards (ie in an upright easel position). There is another ribbon attached to the center of the lid that wraps under the box and attaches with velcro to the bottom front of the box, which stops the lid flopping forwards.
I glued in 2 blocks of wood inside to support my palette (disposable gray paper palette taped to a piece of stiff card), leaving room on the floor of the box for brushes, paper towel, and water in a baby food jar (with lid). I could also fit tubes of paint and masking tape in here. I prefer to set up my palette before leaving home, to minimize weight.
The ‘easel’ is an old piece of stiff cardboard glued to the inside of the lid. I attach the canvas to this with masking tape.
The whole thing was made entirely from materials I had on hand and cost me nothing!