During March 2007 I attended an outdoor painting week with well known artist and a friend of many years Dale Elliot in the Cape at Villiersdorp. I knew it would it be a rewarding experience of meeting other artists, such as Becky Sirin from Sarasota in America, who discovered that her friend in California invested in my paintings, and so did she.
Every experience in art is a learning curve and this one especially, since Dale is exceptionally knowledgeable about the business of art. How lovely it was to be spoilt by Janny, Dales lovely wife who sees to everybody's needs and picnic lunches, tea's, dinners etc.
Painting outdoors is something that every artist should attempt from time to time. Not only is it excellent to paint out of your comfort zone, but you are more fully aware of all the elements in nature and your surroundings. Somehow your senses get challenged and reflect in your art. An art friend once said. Setting up your easel in a landscape is an act of faith, a sacred event. The artist takes from nature without really taking.
I often paint Vineyards: standing on the veranda of a well known cellar such as Stettyn, painting the view of the tractors with loads of grapes, glistening in the last rays of the sun, rushing past to be processed for wine. Truly a privileged experience.
What a treat to savour the taste of an ice cold Chenin Blanc while painting and afterwards enjoying a super lunch on a farm, a farm that has been in been passed on for nine generations. How great can life get! After the week in Villiersdorp, I returned to my little studio in Cape Town and continued to paint outside in places that I always visit with my brush, making the most of the glorious weather.
South Africa is a country with so many facades and different kinds of landscapes. The Over berg, with the vast vistas and grain lands and contours of landscapes can be the inspiration for many paintings. We also painted on an exceptional deserted farm homestead on one of the farms. Unfortunately I didn't take pictures of most of these outdoor paintings before galleries around Cape Town invested in them, but I will add my "after paintings in my studio" at a later stage.
We also painted on an exceptional deserted farm homestead on one of the farms. Unfortunately I didn't take pictures of most of these outdoor paintings before galleries around Cape Town invested in them, but I will add my "after paintings in my studio" at a later stage.
Do not expect painting en plein air to be easy. If you are not blown away by the wind, you get a tan where it wasn't intended or unwelcome visitors hanging over your shoulder etc. You can also easily be confused by too much information around you. But alas, let your soul speak, and the creative juices will flow.
I firmly believe that when painting en plein air you should try and observe what you see, but you are the artist and not a camera. You should select what you want to paint in the scene, and paint the feelings that the situation evokes within you and never to forget who you are as an artist.
For instance, it is no use for a modern, contemporary artist to be intimidated by the realistic landscape in front of you and suddenly jump to a place where you do not want to be in your art. The most wonderful thing is that the eye can go and steal something on the horizon and place it in the forefront of your painting if you want to.
I remember a few years ago, I painted at the very footsteps of van Gogh in Arles, France, and sat in the park where he painted one of his famous works. There was really nothing extraordinary about this park at first glance and frankly I wondered what I was doing there, since I had so many other things to paint.
But then I remembered the magic that Vincent made of the same scene so many years ago. Suddenly I started to notice all kinds of wonderful things, forms and happenings and my brush didn't know where to go first. Let your senses be alive in the moment.
Hout Bay and Kalk Bay are but two of my favourite sites where I paint. What a wonderful feeling to be amongst the people on the quay and experience the mad frenzy when the boats rushes into the harbour, the crowd eagerly awaiting to buy the fresh fish for a meal later with friends or family and the bystanders watching out of curiosity to get a glance at the catch.
The most rewarding thing about painting out in the open is that you connect with a certain situation or place. This enriching experience is then recorded somewhere within your being to be taken out when you need it and when you are alone in your studio.
There is an enriching experience in every moment, in every place and in every situation; you choose your own miracles. Or at the least you have the memory of another very rewarding experience in your life as an artist.