Painting outdoors directly from nature can be a little daunting at first but once a routine is established then I consider this Plein Air technique the best practice for both beginners and experienced painters. The artist must paint quickly, be spontaneous and decisive with his brush strokes as the natural light is ever changing. This forced discipline is the best way to improve as an artist in my opinion, as quick decisions must be made and rendered accordingly.
Painting outdoors can be a challenge for any artist but if the elements are on your side then the process can be quite enjoyable. Unlike painting pictures from photographs in the studio, the end result of a Plein Air painting is usually more of a personal statement which is clean and fresh.
I believe it is not always necessary for an artist to travel far to find inspiration. In fact I have been returning to the same scene to paint this group of old mill houses for 25 years. These cottages always appear different due to the changing light, seasons and time of day. My use of artist's licence will be an essential factor also in making sure each finished artwork is unique and original..
Plein Air is my favorite painting method and on this particular morning the light was changing fast so I chose my vantage point and set up the easel. The mill homes displayed a strong composition but required a little imagination regarding color enhancement. I was aware not to paint everything I could see but simplify by selection.
My approach was to suggest the far distance and methodically work forward. I began by covering the whole canvas by blocking in the main shapes and my basic composition was established. The sky was brushed on followed by a distant inlet showing through trees. The old sagging roofs of the mill houses and their leaning water tanks were exaggerated, all of which added character and age.
There was a hint of pink in the sky when I arrived, however it was no longer there due to the changing light but was remembered and included. My attention was momentarily stolen by fighting magpies. However, the aroma of wildflowers along with the sound of wind in trees made me aware that all my senses were simultaneously activated. I felt as though a sixth sense of intuition occurred which was fuelling creativity.
Some rooftops were already colorful, others were shiny, metallic and bland. I changed these colorless areas to bright pink, blue and orange. More artist's licence was used to add bright reds and yellows to white sheets on washing lines. These same colors were applied to curtains, doors and to the many flowers in surrounding gardens. A strong color statement was now becoming apparent.
Another break in concentration occurred when a gust of wind almost blew over my easel. I quickly secured it with a log. To paint from nature, you must contend with it also. There was an old picket fence and letterbox in the foreground. These were included as I considered them to be an essential part of the overall composition. A grey bitumen road occupied the extreme foreground. However, I remembered this was once a pink sandy track many years ago, so I decided to return to that era and use this sandy track as an all important lead into the picture.
Using a sharp tool I scratched lines into the thick wet oil paint on roofs and walls of each mill house. This gave the impression of corrugated iron and timber cladding of which the cottages were made. Free ranging hens and a little wispy smoke from one chimney only added life to suggest that someone is home.
Finally, using the same sharp tool, number 25 is scratched into the foreground letterbox. This signifies the number of years I have been returning to this historical place to paint pictures of these enchanting cottages.
Michael Cartwright is a professional artists who has won many awards. He paints in two distinct techniques, Quirky Cottages and Traditional Landscapes. Both styles explore the beauty of Western Australia's south coast where he lives. Michael's favorite method is painting outdoors ''Plein Air''. However the Quirky technique is produced in his studio as he relys on imagination only.
Original Oil Paintings and Quality Canvas Prints of the two techniques are available. The Prints are produced using an Epson Printer and we use the highest quality inks and canvas available. Each print is U.V. protected and produced with expertise, skill and attention to detail in order to reproduce the beauty of the original artwork.