Friday, November 25, 2016

Plein, Plain or Plane

Toy Plane 3"x 5" watercolour on paper
If you grew up learning the English language consider yourself lucky because it's a hard language to learn. For example, this plain little plane was on a plane en plein air. That last part was French but you get it.
The last two weeks I haven't had much time to travel for plein air painting. I've been sticking around my neck of the woods for one reason or another. And with the weather turning colder and the daylight hours getting shorter it means I only get a good couple of hours outdoors. This also means I'm spending more time indoors in the studio.(I really hope this isn't a long winter).
Here are some things I've noticed about painting outdoors vs. indoors.  Outdoors is much more fun. The phone doesn't ring, the doorbell doesn't ring. Nothing rings! The possibilities of subject matter are nearly infinite while outdoors and I probably can't say enough good things about painting outside on location so I'll skip to the indoor observations. Yea, it's warmer inside and I never have to worry about when I'll get my next cup of hot coffee but inside has a huge drawback. I have too much time to think. When you're outside painting you have to scan your surroundings and commit to a location and get to work before the light changes or it starts raining, etc. When you're inside you can pick a subject matter whether it's a photo reference or a still life and then change your mind just like that. It's too easy to choose something to paint and then say, hmmm....I'd rather paint this other thing instead. It takes much more self-discipline to get work done indoors. For me anyways. I'm sure some people think going out to paint takes much more discipline but for me it's the opposite.  I've also noticed that I'm much more methodical while I paint indoors. I measure stuff, and check for more accuracy way more than necessary. I'm starting to wonder if it's my subconscious finding ways for me to procrastinate.  Painting outdoors feels like a much more free-spirited experience or maybe the word organic better describes it. You're there for the moment and you're trying to capture the light and the feeling of that moment of that particular day. While painting indoors you have all day, weeks, or months to fuss over minute details that don't make a difference in the grand scheme of things. One huge plus to working indoors, for me, is that all this fussing and measuring has really got my mind more focused on constructing good compositions which can only benefit me while I'm outdoors painting.
If anyone has some good pointers on how to transition from painting outside to inside I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.


  1. HAH! So true...spent all Friday starting (but not following through) 4 different projects in the studio, not to mention non art related peripheral distractions. So, as of now no hamburgers to offer - just more fries.
    Your bringing up the accuracy issue is interesting too, because one of the directions I was pulling toward was drawing - specifically accurate proportions - as a means of increasing outdoor painting speed (or rather efficiency). I think portraiture or figures may be a good skill builder, more so than still life. So perhaps there's a White Castle sized hamburger in that...

    1. That's a great idea. I s'pose I could look at it like being in training, but with less shin splints and gold medals. Any practice indoors could surely only help, but figure drawing would definitely be a Bruce Lee type training and who doesn't want to be Bruce Lee?