Here’s wishing all my family and friends a very Happy Holiday and Blessed New Year.
I’ve managed to get out every week to paint, except for this week. I scheduled a paint out at Willistead for Monday, but the fog had other ideas. Many of our group members are from the county. The last thing I want is for someone to drive in that mess. It looks like December’s weather is going to continue to make things difficult for painting outdoors. We can paint in most weather, however, rain is a pain!
I’m happy to say we did get out and paint in the first snow of the year. We went to the Transportation Museum and Heritage Village. They were decorating the museum and village for Christmas. We had planned on a group breakfast in their 50’s inspired diner. Little did we realize that they had changed the diners hours for the winter. How disappointing! However, the kitchen staff was there cooking up lunch for the volunteers, so they kindly opened up just for us. We were blessed!
I painted a wee log cabin that day. It was originally owned by the Clark family. They were some of the original settlers in Essex County. The family still lives in the area, as do many who were granted land by the Crown. I went to school with the descendants of the family who lived in this tiny home. I had no idea that was the name of the cabin until someone mentioned it on Facebook. Funny thing, my maiden name is Clarke. Call me silly, but it made my day.
snow, oh no!
It was a chilly day, and while I was painting it started to snow. Regular oil paints would not be budged in this weather, but I paint with water soluble oils, and they don’t like to get wet! Like the Richard Harris song, you don’t want to leave the cake out in the rain. I had to quickly turn the painting upside down. I ran off to get my van and umbrella to try to shelter my work from the snow. I did manage to continue painting in spite of the snow. I wanted to complete it on site. Almost all of my work is done entirely on location. I live in a very tiny house, and as a result I have no indoor studio space. The great outdoors in my studio.
I made the painting into a holiday gif, that you can see above. That was NOT easy! I had to learn how to do it. I looked up the tutorials online and worked on it for days, in a free program called The Gimp. The Gimp is much like Photoshop. I struggled with the tutorials, and it just was just not working. Eventually, just did it my own way. Guess what, it worked! You can see the original painting without the snow below, and soon on my available paintings page.
On The Clark Cabin painting, as well as many of my paintings, I used a limited Palette. On the Clark Cabin palette included: Yellow Ocher, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Sienna, Cadmium Yellow Light, Quinacridone purple, a dab of Cadmium red on the bow, and Titanium White. I’m sure those strange colour names can be a bit confusing; artist quality colours are generally named for their ingredients.
A limited palette is a challenge many artists impose on themselves. The goal is to see how well you can mix colour. For Plein Air Artists, the less paint you have to carry in your gear, the better. A back pack can get heavy very quickly. If you are flying with your gear you really have to watch your luggage weight.
I’ve taken up this challenge many times. I’ve not always recorded what paint I used. I’m embarking on a new habit of photographing my palette before and after the finished painting. A three colour plus white is the ultimate limited palette. This palette usually includes some form of the three primary colours of Red, Yellow and Blue, but there are many shades, and hues of these three colours and knowing how to work with them is the challenge.
In the slideshow above you can see the limited palette I used on the painting, Malden Hiltop, along with an on location sight size photo. Sight size is another very common method of painting which I will cover in a future article.
Other painting locations last month include: Studio, still life Pear Study, Lakeside Park in Kingsville, and McAuliffe Park, in Tecumseh. (Click on any image to see details.)
Earlier this year the University of Windsor Alumni Magazine contacted the Alumni and asked them to submit articles for publication. They published my article in its entirely. I guess that makes me a published writer now?
Or read it here or go to the source:
Elizabeth Gaye MacDonald, BFA ‘01
I’ve had a wonderful 2014, and 2015 looks to be a great year as well. I am an extreme plein air painter, currently working in oil. Extreme, in that I paint in all weather, even sub zero temperatures. There are no bad weather days, only bad clothing choices. I make sure I dress for the weather. I rather paint in cold weather than in extreme heat. You can always dress warm. My dream is to paint in remote areas. However, getting to these areas is a challenge, due mainly to the cost of an expedition of this sort. The biggest cost is camping gear, canoe/kayak, and 4 wheel drive transportation. The other challenge is convincing my loved ones that this type of extreme expedition is safe. There are many dangers in the wild. I grew up extreme camping with my family. I don’t live in fear of the wild. I embrace it.
What is Plein Air Painting?
It never surprises me when people ask me what I mean by Painting en Plein Air. En Plein air is a French expression which means “in the open air”, and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors. I often think that many know to whom I’m referring when I mention Canada’s plein air “Group of Seven.” The reality is that many haven’t any idea what or whom I’m talking about. Happily, Plein Air Painting is currently celebrating a revival around the globe. Just do a Google search on Plein Air Painting and you will get over 3 million hits, and the Windsor & Essex County Plein Air Artists won’t be very far down the first page.
Plein air painting is not easy, but it is extremely rewarding. First off, being outdoors, in itself, is the best reward. When painting outdoors, you learn to work quickly. Light and shadow are constantly changing. You can’t chase the light, you must make a decision on when to capture that one moment in time. The artist must always be aware of where the sun will be at any point during the day. How will the sun affect the scene? Then again, you might be painting at night or on a cloud covered day where shadows are scarce. That’s when Plein air gets really interesting. What effect does the available light have on the scene? Can you recreate the mood? Cloudy days are difficult, night time is near impossible. How do you even see your canvas at night? I have a head mounted LED light that helps me to see the canvas.
You maybe a studio painter and think that Plein Air painting is not for you. However, the act of painting from life outdoors will improve your studio work. I must warn you that painting outdoors from life may just spoil you from ever painting from a photograph again. The experience becomes a memory not soon forgotten. Ask anyone in our and they will tell you that there is no greater joy for us, then when we are able to paint outdoors. But, introducing others to painting en Plein Air is a joy in itself.
2014 – 2015
2014 gave me the opportunity to paint in some great locations. In August, I painted at the Paint Dexter Plein Air Festival. This is one of many week-long painting competitions available throughout the U.S. There are a few in Canada, but nowhere near as many as in the states. There were two categories judged during the Dexter event. The judge for the Dexter Plein Air Festival was internationally acclaimed artist Kenneth Cadwallade, current President of Oil Painters of America. The first category was for work completed on location during the week, the second category was a quick paint. The artists had 3 hours to paint, frame and submit their work for judging. The quick paint is nerve wracking, but I thrive under pressure. It forces me to transcribe what I see as quickly as I can. Painting quickly tends to loosen my touch, and I record only what is necessary. Because I paint outdoors regularly, I feel I have an advantage others less practiced artists. To my joy, I placed 2nd in this category. I also sold all 5 paintings that I produced during this event. I am looking forward to participating at the event again in August of 2015.
In addition to the Dexter event, I spent the month of September painting in Seattle, Washington. I had the opportunity to paint with many different Washington based artists. There is camaraderie amongst Plein Air Painters. The common bond of painting outdoors joins us across miles, generations and social stature. Another significant event in 2014, is that my work was featured on the cover of the publication Important World Artists vol 1 https://wwab.us/shop/publications/important-world-artists/ In 2015, I was accepted as an associate member of the Oil Painters of America.
In 2009 I co-founded, and run the Windsor & Essex County Plein Air Society. We’ve recently changed our name to the Windsor & Essex County Plein Air Artists. We have missed only a couple of weeks in the last year, due to rain. I’ve even managed to paint in the rain under the shelter of a plein air umbrella. Please feel free to visit the group website: https://wepleinair.wordpress.com/ Here you will find a blog post for every outing we’ve done since September 2011. The full list of outings dating back to 2009 can be found on our Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/WindsorEssexPleinAir/events/?past
About the group
Our group, The Windsor & Essex County Plein Air Society, was established in 2009, and is devoted to educating and promoting plein air painting. The core members of the group have painted together since the mid 1990’s. We meet weekly on location, usually on Mondays, at various locations throughout Windsor, and Essex County. The group is open to anyone, and is free to join. For more information email: PaintPleinAir@gmail.com
Three blocks east of Willistead Park, home of Art in the Park
NO ADMISSION – Parking available June 6th & 7th 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Location: 1030 Walker Rd., Windsor, On. Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/9t00k I will be located in booth A3 which is the first row parallel to Walker Road. I will accept Cash or cheque. All original Plein Air (painted on location) framed oil and watercolour paintings priced between $250 and $350.
Some of the work available for sale.
Some of you know that I run the group Windsor & Essex County Plein Air Artists. Well, quite often I get so busy there I don’t get to keep up my own blog and website. SO, here’s a catch up!
It’s been an incredible winter! Even with the extreme cold, our group is painting in -18 C weather! YES!! Some of the places we’ve visited this winter are:
- Canadian Transportation Museum and Heritage Village
- Essex County Steam & Gas Engine Museum Inc
- John R Park Homestead
- Ducharme Maple Syrup Farm, Oxley
- Ojibway Park
We’ve received some great press coverage. (Click on photo to go to articles.) The Windsor Star has a video clip of an interview with me.
SOME NEW WORK!
Tuesday was a beautiful sunny day. Even though the temperature was -8°C or 18°F I was dressed for the weather. My paints however, were not liking the low temperatures. They were stiff and hard to get out of the tube. My pochade painting box was not co-operating and I struggled to get my panel secured. Yes, a few curse words were muttered. Then, I could hardly loosen my tripod legs. I did eventually get set up, but frustration had set in. It took me a bit to settle down, and get into the scene. Some days just don’t seem to go well. I quit early with my painting only partially complete.
Friday we got another beautiful sunny day, and the temperature was much warmer. I set out again to finish the painting. I made some changes this time out. My hubby is always bringing me home random items. He recently brought me a thermal lunch bag. Into this bag I put all my paint tubes, along with a hot water bottle. It really made a big difference in the paint. It was easier to get out of the tube and it seemed to remain workable much longer. It could also be because the weather was not quite as cold. Thankfully, I was able to complete the painting.
It seems I’m behind on a few paintings. The group went out to paint December 1st at Ojibway Park. While winter weather had not quite set in yet, it was chilly, and damp. The water in the creek at Ojibway Park had not yet frozen over. Looking across the road from the Park entrance I could see a neighboring house. This corner of the creek was almost choked with reeds, not an easy subject at all.