Friday, July 8, 2016

Working plein-air

A friend of mine invited me for a trip on his boat. He owns a house near a National Park in the north of the Netherlands. Endless canals, interchanged by lakes. Quite impressive.

The weather prediction said 'a few local showers', but since I'm an optimist I thought 'local' would be somewhere else. I packed my drawing pad and a few pencils, hoping to do some drawing from the boat. It turned out that 'local' was right where we were and I only made one quick drawing. 

Reflected Tree, pencil on paper, 14,2 x 21,6 cm

It doesn't look like much, it's clear that I'm out of practice, but I enjoyed the experience. It's so simple: you take your pad and a pencil, you sit down somewhere and you're in for a few hours of fun. The result comes in second. For me, working from nature is about observation. 

Don't forget your eraser. I needed it quite a few times and it was a great help in the reflection bit. I used an HB and a 3B pencil. HB for the outlines and the soft greys, 3B for the darker parts. The pad I worked on was a Tiger sketch book, 216 x 142 mm, 100 grs.

If you feel like sharing your plein-air stories, be my guest!


  1. This story isn't mine but that of Susan Ogilvie, a well known pastel artist from here in the Olympuc Peninsula in Washington State.

    Susan was painting in a quiet cemetery during Paint the Peninsula, our local Plein air event (which I started four years ago, I might add...brag, brag). The spot afforded her a good view of the mountains and valley and seemed perfect for catching the early light that hits the Olympic Mountain Range.

    Shortly after she had started blocking in her painting, Susan started to hear strange animal sounds. Some were indistinct and unrecognizeable but others were very ominous. Grunts and roars. We're pretty rural out here and so it's understandable that this artist would become alarmed. After all, bears and mountain lions are not foreign to the area.

    Susan whipped out her cell phone and called the police. Um...not sure if she hoped they'd come and arrest the animals but I suppose it's as good a call as any.

    When Susan told the officer where exactly she was calling from, he started to laugh. Turned out our local wild animal park is located just below the bluff where she was standing. The bear and lion enclosures are about 60 feet below that perfect painting spot.

    The only story I have if my own was that if getting "goosed" by a curious deer up on Hurricane Ridge while painting. Turned out I had a half eaten cookie wrapped in a napkin in my back pocket. Must have jumped four feet in the air! 😝 Wanted to post a pic of the culprit here but, alas, Google won't let me.

    1. Great stories! I did most of my plein-air work on the Dutch Wadden Sea islands and the wildlife there is mainly birds. In general they don't ambush you, except maybe for seagulls when you get to close to their nests. They bomb you with you-know-what. Ruins your painting. Great initiative, Susan. I checked the website and was surprised by the wonderful work!