Saturday, January 11, 2014

Hello January!... Surprise me!

The New Year terribly frigid weather conditions everywhere in this part of Canada has throttled down every one's plans and enthusiasm. The usual feeling of optimism to set the wrongs of last year right with resolutions and promises of change seems to have been frozen... winter-locked would be a good term to describe the situation.

In my own planning, getting out to paint en plein air has been set by the wayside in lieu of completing necessary chores... like splitting firewood  to remain comfortable in our riverside home. We are fortunate... no blessed to have an airtight stove... no matter its deep hunger for hardwood.  It has faithfully filled every corner of our living space with deep and satisfying warmth. Many of our neighbours' homes are  heated with propane. Even their appliances are propane fired. Propane has not been available for them... and some have been without heat for going on a week... with no precise prospect for delivery in sight. There is simply a shortage of supply in most of Ontario.

Yesterday... with all of our wood stove needs taken care of... I decided to make my first foray of 2014 out to paint en plein air. As usual, I prepared my palette beforehand and reduced my painting kit to pure basics: my paint box, adjustable metal easel, a 10x12 inch toned panel, shop towels. O placed these in my trusty back pack along with other "extras" like a large tube of Griffin Alkyd titanium white, turps, a small tin of kerosene, small bungee cords. This represents what I call my minimalistic "carry in" gear ... less is better, especially in the "carry out" at the end of the session, when one is fatigued and overly cold. This makes quick and easy take down time essential.

I had attended a Rockport Development Group meeting the day before at the nearby Cornwall Pub and Grill. During my boredom, I kept noticing an interesting outside view of The Boat House Restaurant from my chair at the table. I fantasized my way through the blur of "nothingness" at the meeting... "imagineering" an approach to painting this scene. I decided that today would be the day to try and make that  fantasy become reality. It made sense as well, not to venture into the very treacherous and ice-covered off road places which would present grave danger from falling and most certainly would sap energy... and painting enthusiasm.

I triple layered my clothing and included; thermal long johns, a "hoodie"... and my thermal boots to meet the challenges of the -8C temperature and the wind chill  feel of -16C created by the steady west wind. I took that steady biting west wind into considering my location to paint from as well. Glad that I did! While the 10x12 toned panel was ample space to cover in my venture... it was insufficient to fit in the actual height of my "vision"... so after three failed drawing in attempts... I cropped my "vision" somewhat to fit vertically onto this small panel.

Being totally out of the sun was beneficial in keeping glare out of the process, but as the session wore on, the absence of its warming influence could be really felt - especially in my finger tips. I had worked quickly and had eliminated using the kerosene can setup as a brush cleaner, substituting shop towels to thoroughly remove pigment from my used brushes. The cup of turps served me well... until the cold tightened up the paint making clean brushes impossible. My fingers and I decided at this point to pack it in and to head home. It was the right decision.

My first plein air trial was met. The painting?... still to be decided. It requires some adjustment to make right the foul weather fumbling. But that is usually in actual fact, a part of cold weather outdoor painting. The cold imposes its own will upon the artist and upon the very paint itself. To put it frankly... both the artist and the pigment go ... according to the flow! "Know when to hold... or fold!"

Here is the result as it came from the field. I will add the changes I would like to bring it closer to me primary vision for the painting. A comparison of both clearly demonstrates the value of using both sessions to arrive at a final pleasing painting. Neither need supersede the other in importance. Together... they reveal the tapestry that is composed of Nature... plus your creative voice!

Allow January to surprise you... or simply take up that brush... and... surprise your Self !

Good Painting ... to ALL! Either in the studio ... or en plein air!

Straight out of the field... untouched... except by my frozen fingers. The -16C wind chill played havoc with the pigment and my fingers making a clean finish impossible. Retreat is the honourable and safe strategy at this point in the game. Everything is there that will make the final statement what I had envisioned.

"Ice"-oil on panel 12x10 inches

This is the final result, after letting the paint set up overnight. I walked by... without the paints next morning and made note of the details I might add to give the final work an extra bit of punch. I am pleased with the painterly final impression... proving that plein air and studio sessions can be used in tandem ... so that neither process dominates the other. It looks as fresh as the outdoors where it was found! As well... the tops of these lovely birches were added... from memory. Sadly...the ice sorm broke off the upper branches. The magic of the memory - own the painting!

Welcome January! A good start for 2014! Looking forward to an outing tomorrow... better weather is forecast... and Sun! 
Stay tuned!...

Good Painting!... to all!!


  1. Boy! Just looks darned cold, Bruce. Still, not surprised you sallied forth to paint en plein aire! Beautiful result too!

  2. Good morning Sherry!... Thanks for dropping in with your encouraging comment!

    Yup!... Colder than hell. But you know... feeling the cold firsthand... makes one much more appreciative of the fact that you can go home to the warmth of your own castle... unlike many unfortunates... not too afar... or abroad in the world!

    There is a beauty in that cold that continues to encourage me to go out to paint in it... crazy as that may seem to others... including Deb! HA HA!!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,