Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Camera or "en plein air"?

The click of my camera is fast. It captures and stores the image for me. But slowing down and spending time studying the color, shapes, texture, values and line work of the scene before me, so I can render it in my sketchbook, is a very different experience.

When I’m outside “en plein air”, sitting at an outdoor cafĂ©, on a hillside sketching, or focusing on a beautiful still life, all my senses wake up.

In Southern France, near St. Remy, the gentle Alpilles Mountains rise above the Provencal countryside. I love to sit and draw their playful shapes. As I’m focusing on their angles and colors, I’m also aware of the French words spoken around me, the sunlight casting shadows, the scent of lavender when the breeze 
blows, and the taste of the local wine. 
My eyes follow the form and connect to my right hand as my pen and brush move across the paper. And with all my senses fully awake I sink into the place in a completely different way.  

It is more than a quick click of my camera. The place becomes indelibly etched upon my soul.

When I return home to my art studio with my sketchbook, the time I took to “be” in that place allows all my senses to take me there again. My experience returns as I look at my sketch or watercolor and re-experience being there, without the hassle of airports or jet lag - just by opening my sketchbook. 


Just outside the Silverton city limits last spring I drove by this rolling farm land.  I pulled over, sketched a few different design ideas and took photographs for later use. I'm working on a series from this image using watercolor out of the tube with limited water...similar to acrylic, but with the lightness and transparency of watercolor. 

Five generations ago my ancestors homesteaded in this area so I have a strong pull to this landscape.