Thursday, April 26, 2012

Painting plein air where the world will end on December 21 of this year

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Hieroglyphic Stairway at Copan
Watercolour and crayon
©2012 Charlene Brown

This is another made-up view of the hieroglyphic stairway, as (not quite) seen from near the top of one of the pyramids enclosing the two courts of the Acropolis. All I could actually see was the huge protective tarpaulin that was draped over the whole length of it. The painting I did lastAugust  showed the view from the other end of the ball court. And you couldn’t see the stairway from there either.
When I asked for stories from artist friends who are capable of talking and painting at the same time and actually replying intelligently to roving art critics, I got some good advice, but I was also reassured to learn that they too have avoidance techniques. Vivien Blackburn said that one of the many uses of a ‘half-igloo’ beach tent she takes when she goes painting plein air is to shelter herself from enquiring passers-by – I could see this providing the corner-to-back-into I’m always looking for! AlisonStaite  said she’d never been much bothered by Roving Art Critics, and thought this might be because of her glowering look!  I’d have to say that the glowering look I’m pretty sure I had at Copan had a rather surprising result…
RAC: I see you’ve left out the tarpaulin…
Artist: mm-hmm
RAC: Do you know why it’s there?
Artist: They’re getting ready for the end of the world.
RAC: Do you believe that?
Artist: Of course not.
This led to a fascinating discussion of why some people believe the Mayan calendar predicted the world would end on December 21, 2012.
Reflecting on this conversation has led me to wonder if a less defensive, more confident approach to The Drama of Painting Plein Air would be a good idea… Make that a pleasantly confident approach, and it could be a great idea.

Friday, April 20, 2012

A big advantage of painting over photography

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Columbine Garden on Salt Spring Island
©2012 Charlene Brown

It takes a lot longer to paint something than to photograph it, but painters do have some huge advantages over photographers. My favourite is that you can put whatever you want into your picture. Of course, this only applies to painters not too tightly bound to reality, or to rules like ‘one painting – one subject,’ which I’ve never liked much.
Photographers can get Mount Maxwell and the lovely little church (it’s St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, should you be wondering) lined up in one shot if they’re quick and pick the right moment as the ferry swings around and heads for the dock at Fulford Harbour. But only a painter can work in this spectacular columbine garden, which is not in fact located in the middle of the harbour, but at an artist’s studio at the top of a precipitous drive up the hill on the right. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Painting plein air where cameras are prohibited

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Roman ruins at Uthina
Watercolour and crayon
©2009 Charlene Brown

Most galleries and museums don’t allow photography, and artists or even whole classes of art students are often seen sketching famous paintings or sculpture.  Outdoor locations that prohibit photography, on the other hand, are kind of unusual, but I found one – an archaeological site at Uthina, in Tunisia.  A French research team had unearthed some great-looking stuff, and they didn’t want anyone getting pictures of the site into circulation prior to publication of their findings.

Soon after I set about sketching the ruins of the temple, the amphitheatre and, in the distance, surviving parts of the Zaghouan-Carthage aqueduct, I learned that drawing or painting the on-going dig was not encouraged either.  Here’s another little script in the Drama of Painting Plein Air…

Approaching archaeologist: Vous êtes canadienne? (they’d heard we were coming) Parlez francaise?
Moi: Un peu.
Archaeologist: No pictures! (glances at sketchbook and immediately becomes…)
Roving Art Critic: (trying not to laugh out loud) Well, maybe zat is okay.

It’s unusual for my imprecise renderings to draw such jolly comments from Roving Art Critics!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Virtual Paintout in Gdansk

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Brama Nizinna
©2012 Charlene Brown

The Virtual Paintout is in Poland this month and, unlike some of Bill Guffey’s selections where you have a whole country to work with, we could only choose locations in Gdansk.  I usually look for mountains to paint, and I know there are some spectacular ones along the Slovakian border in the south of Poland, but that grass covered hill on the right of my painting, part of an extensive fortification, is the closest I could find in Gdansk. Here is what it looks like in Google Streetview.  Perhaps next month there will be mountains. 
In the meantime, I was very taken with an entry by Carolee Clark... Carolee always seems to find a great looking subject, and has added to her impressive collection of figure paintings this month.