The quest for painting en plein air

Metolius-plein air

Metolius River en plein air

The weather is getting warmer here in Oregon, and lately we’ve had some record-breaking temperatures for this time in May. I took advantage of the dry weather this past weekend to paint Gesso onto some one-eighth-inch hardboard panels I purchased at
Home Depot. I bought a large sheet of the hardboard and had them cut it up into
24- 12″ x 16″ panels, and 3- 16″ x 24″ panels.  I painted them and let them dry in the sun, then sanded them and painted over with a second coat.  They are now ready to use!

I picked up this idea from the speaker at our last Artists in Action meeting, Mike Rangner, who is an excellent plein air painter.  It’s a fantastic idea!  I can take them with me easily,  since they are small and fit perfectly into one of my cloth carrying bags. (I place cardboard in between each panel for protection.) They are inexpensive, so I can do many quick, loose paintings, not worrying over the cost of materials. Loosening up with increasingly frequent painting experience, and more opportunities to interpret the light, shadows and forms is what I need to do, if I am going to achieve the freedom of expression I hope to attain with plein air painting.

plein-air | ˈplān ˈe(ə)r | adjective [ attrib. ]
denoting or in the manner of a 19th-century style of painting outdoors,
or with a strong sense of the open air, that became a central feature
of French Impressionism.

ORIGIN from French en plein air ‘in the open air.’

I plan to use several of the panels, when we go to Maupin — a small, high-desert community in North Central Oregon — for a weekend getaway. The weather is generally several degrees warmer there, and dry. Maupin is situated on the Deschutes River as it flows through the canyons to the joy of white water rafters and fishermen. It  borders the Warm Springs Indian territory. There are beautiful rock formations – some still have petroglyphs visible, Salmon steps, and log homes and structures along the cliffs and waterways. I’m looking forward to the inspiration it might give me to paint and soak up the contrasting shadows and light.

I also hope to paint in my own back yard this summer, where I have my garden “sanctuary,” of blooming flowers, greenhouse, bird bath, vegetable garden, and a red Adirondack chair waiting for me.

Another opportunity is “Paint the Town” which starts up in June. As a group of artists, we go to several locations in and around the Salem area to paint outdoors for hours at a time. Summer is a plein air painter’s wonderland, and I plan to make the most of it this year!