"We've been told that's an orange. So we call it an orange. We've been told that's an apple. So we call it an apple. But you and I look at these things and see different objects- with the same name. I paint them in a still life and I set them down in what my intellect tells me is the order and the form in which they appear to me. It's a constructive process from beginning to end. No I'm no anarchist. I believe in total liberty, yes, but subject to man inner order, control- and laws"
- Pablo Picasso
Different... Yet the Same!
Each of these leaves comes from a different source. Each species has its unique shape, texture and colour and appears very different from the others. And yet, all are the same... because they all come from plants. Each plant's life force depends upon its being rooted in the earth. Each one... in it's own singular way functions for one reason - to grow and to bear fruit. Each accomplishes this in varying degrees differently and separately... across a varying life span.
Similarly, the human species... though sharing the same needs and physiology per say, we display vastly differing features such as colour, language, music, religion or spirituality,ethnic and cultural traits. Though we live in diverse geographically different areas of the world, we do share intrinsic emotions, physical needs and desires for a common quality of life and the pursuit of joy and happiness. And like plants, we too... in our own individual manner seek to grow... learn... and yes...bear fruit.
One of the great benefits for me in painting outdoors for most of my life, is that I have found myself constantly in a position to observe the inter-connectedness of all things in Creation. I "see" and observe behaviours in all that is around me... which though they come from vastly different species they closely mimic or follow the very same behaviours of human kind. Each and every time that I observe a pair of geese ready to step between their young and potential danger... no matter on what scale, I am reminded that love for a chosen mate and ones young are not reserved for the human species alone.
Each time that I find myself walking amidst a stand of forest, I now can see clearly the innate harmony and the sense of community under which trees "agree" to coexist. The "elders" shading the new growth on the forest floor. The richness of the past... in the form of nutrient... to enable the continuance of those who follow. Though they all strive to reach greater heights and the hope of a better life through finding "light"... each in its totally unique way does so, usually without impeding the opportunity of the member species nearby. Is that not "supposed" to be be the path of the human spirit? I wonder.....
I could, without any difficulty continue to offer example after example about this observed inter-connectedness in all Creation, but minds better than my own like Walt Whitman and David Suzuki have offered more developed and authoritative views than my humble observations. I wish only to suggest in this post that going outdoors, or painting "en plein air" offers a great opportunity for the artists to observe and have revealed to them knowledge about how the Natural World operates which can never be fully captured in a book... a studio... a class workshop or on a dvd. That valuable asset can only be gained through experience in the field.
As human kind we have emerged and arrived in modernity through our common path towards this point as hunter-gatherer societies. Those instincts that our predecessors gained and honed through their struggle to survive are deeply rooted in all societies, both in the distant past and the present. I would offer that they are present in every man, woman and child... from birth. But I would offer that in today's "softer" existence the need to be a hunter-gather, at the best of times is peripheral for most folks.
However... most artists share a deeply embedded need and passion to search for meaning and knowledge... on a number of levels. Most share a more aware and positive view regarding a need for conservation. Most possess a stronger and more reverent of heritage and family ties. Most value and regard education as a primary need for themselves, their children and their family members. Most, in my experience and then in my own view... are more liberal and accepting of differences in others they live with. Most gather their data from the field...and return with their harvested kernels of knowledge... and paintings to be used in their home work.
Those areas of "sameness" ... in the face of their vast and varying areas of difference in their highly individual methods... mediums and preferences of subject matter serve to fuel the common need to create and express ourselves visually. We are all truly "different... yet the same."
There has been much banter about plein air painting being superior to studio painting. I would again argue my earlier point that both share similarities to the other... while at the same time differences. Both situations can be used to create the various genres that all of us embrace from time to time. Landscapes of equal quality and value have been created by artists of every calibre across the ages. One could argue that the prehistoric paintings found in caves around the world are indeed the first "studio paintings" by man.
And those red ochre paintings I've seen from First Peoples in our region and others around the world could arguably be really... the first examples of "plein air" painting. Where does that put the French... who first coined the word now used during the period known as the Impressionist era? Are both not valid examples of both painting traditions? Whether one paints inside or out... it is the light that is important in the process. Outside the light is natural "white light" and does indeed make colour mixing pure. However any studio worth its rent... usually boasts having a "North Light"... meaning that it is constant.
Still life opportunities exist in both locations... as do figurative studies. Lighting conditions... weather and time are factors which do indeed factor into one's method of working outdoors. Making decisions and using quick brushwork enliven those works completed on location. The skill of "seeing"... understanding is much facilitated by study done out in nature. Therefore, there is immense value in working out there. But that knowledge and the traits just mentioned can be readily applied by the artist in the studio... after he or she has acquired the knowledge and skill out on location. When that stage is reached... one can work comfortably in either place... and the final outcome can become indistinguishable.
So in closing... Plein air or studio painting share differences and also similarities. One is not superior to the other. In fact, each can support the other... and can work hand in hand to make one a better painter... blending painterly speed... with disciplined and detailed planning. My best advice is to give both some of your time. Sketch... on location?... or larger paintings crafted over hours of painting in the studio? The question of which one is superior can best be answered with this question? Which one steals.... or captures the senses? That one... wherever it was painted... is truly..."superior"!
Just one fella's thoughts!
This photo was taken on last Friday after a newspaper interview that I was involved in as a prelude to an upcoming show that I am a part of with the tiaArts group of painters. The event is being hosted by The eagle Point Winery on November 16 thru' 18. As I came out of the main building I noticed this wonderful landscape opportunity begging to be painted, but I had other business to take care of back in Rockport... so I put it on hold until Saturday.
This is the "same" scene on that very next day! The same place?... Yes... well almost... but with some differences added by Mr Jack Frost overnight!
The "same"... but "different landscape"... certainly many of the elements that I was first drawn to which encouraged me to think about painting this lansdscape. But here is the "different" version that I set out to paint... en plein air at temperatures less than 10c... and a stiff head wind all the way through the outing!
"Ice Wine Anyone ?...After the Frost at Eagle Point Winery" - "raw" plein air oil sketch on toned panel 12x16 inches.
Icy and cold conditions here! No dallying ... just get it all down quickly! A raw wind creates "raw interpretation! It is what it is...
Stay tuned for the "studio enriched" version! .... It will be "the same... but different"! HA HA!!!
Good Painting... indoors and in the studio... to ALL!