• T.G. Arsenault

My Very First 3-Hour Plein Air Adventure...

And an adventure that produced a painting my 5-year-old could probably whip out with a crayon. Comical, yet still provided me with a great experience, fresh air, and new challenges. Trying to create a complete painting in only 3 hours leaves no time for fine details.

Having never painted en Plein Air, I tried to prepare the night before, gathering everything I would need for my 3-hour tour. I really had no idea which brushes I wanted so grabbed a select few favorites, but nothing for details, as I knew I wouldn’t have the time. For paints I choice the basics: Black, white, cadmium yellow, alizarin crimson, sap green, and cerulean blue. I used Griffin Alkyd fast-drying oil paints.

Prepare I did, yet Murphy, true to his law, proved that it wouldn’t matter. Preparing to leave, car running, multiple trips back inside had me searching for this and that. Finally arriving at the Number 6 Cemetery in Rush, NY, as I prepared attaching my pochade box to my tripod, I realized I was missing the one piece needed to do so (a plate still attached to my camera at home). Thankfully the site is only 2 miles away (another reason I selected this spot, knowing my typical luck).

Before I started, I did something that goes back to my novel, Forgotten Souls. I touched each tombstone I was going to paint and whispered a thank you to each for allowing me to paint them, in remembrance. Weird, maybe, but I’ve been drawn to cemeteries since I was a boy.

At last, pochade box attached to a tripod perched on uneven ground, I took a breath and a few more minutes to capture the angle I wanted to paint then did a quick sketch on my hardboard panel with some burnt sienna.

Getting behind my pochade box, I picked up a brush. From that point on, time didn’t seem to exist as I listened to the birds, the breeze soughing the trees, and distant cars going by. Three hours passed amazingly fast, as I worked from the background to the foregrounds, placing the distant trees, foreground trees and finally, the tombstones.

The end result was “meh” and almost what I expected, but the experience gained far outweighed any attempts at perfection. It provided me a great underpainting, and in fact, looks almost like the blocking-in stage when I create a painting from a reference photo. I will treat this as such and post the result once completed.

I will continue attempting different subjects en plein air, and either use them as underpaintings for more detailed work once they dry, or (if eventually worthy) keep the pieces strictly as plein air.

If you’ve read this far, thank you. I hope to blog more plein air adventures soon.

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