Discovering And Capturing The Outdoors Through Art
Like the great quote from J. R. R. Tolkein says, "Not all those who wander are lost"... some are just heading out to paint in the wilderness! Or the city, up a mountain, in a park, or at the beach. We are sincerely thankful to everyone who participated in the Opus Outdoor Painting Challenge this year! We had almost 600 wonderful entries and appreciate each and every one of them.
We've collected a number of stories and artworks that we believe will inspire you to keep up the plein air painting, and if you haven't made the time to try this way of creating yet, we hope you'll find the inspiration here. There's lots of great weather ahead of us, so read on and meet some wonderful artists, see their artwork, and learn about their outdoor painting experience, then head out and do some plein air painting of your own!
Tried painting en plein air (aka outside) thanks to Opus Art Supplies Outdoor Painting Challenge #opusopc2021 . Our family is on vacation this week and the oceanside house we rented has a picnic table on a cliff. It was the perfect place to set up for a painting session. (Swipe to see the setup.)
Painting outside in the summer usually doesn’t work for me because ever since my first pregnancy, my skin has been allergic to the sun. Thankfully, it is cool enough here that I could keep my sweater on and stay mostly covered.
Painting outdoors forced me to work quickly because acrylics dry really fast, especially in the sun and wind! I’m glad I picked a small “canvas” - which I gathered from the beach in the morning.
En plein air painted the stunning mountain and forest scene on a tiny canvas. I started this painting in the evening because the weather was windy, I completed it on another day. By the time I finished, the sky changed a lot. Acrylic on 2"x2" canvas.
I decided to try doing a #watercolour for this year’s Opus Pleinair Challenge and I didn’t have to go far to find my inspiration. I was entranced by the riot of colours in my ‘mass of annuals grown from seed’ flower garden and how it was echoed by the neighbour’s colourful laundry hung on the line. So I set up in the garden with my father’s plein air painting easel and dove in. Luckily I took a few photos first because my neighbour pulled in her laundry shortly after I started! I have been focussing on exploring and learning the effects and techniques of watercolours and am particularly drawn to their fluidity and organic mind of its own effect of letting the water create the interest and define shapes as the paint dries. I used liquid frisket with this piece, to mask out areas for the clothes and the blossoms - this allowed me to use free broad brushstrokes for the larger areas while maintaining the white in fun organic shapes for the bright colours. I wanted the clothes to have a textured quality within the washes suggesting the floss and drapes without being literal. This is my first pleinair in a while painting in a new medium to boot! But it was a great opportunity to challenge myself. Hope everyone who participated had a fun time and thanks Opus for inspiring us and giving us the motivation!
Here’s my submission for the Opus plein air painting challenge. I went out with my good painting buddies Sarah Kidner and Deborah Tilby for a gorgeous day of painting along the Pitt Meadows dike. We were out in full sun which was ok in the morning but the afternoon got hot and windy so the day had its challenges as plein air always does. Still, a tough day at the office is not too tough to take. Thanks girls for a wonderful adventure! As you can see in the progression of the painting, there was some editing, me moving objects as it went along, which is always part of my process. In the end I removed a small truck, the start of a block in of a red tractor and added a few red cows. Ya just gotta do what works for your painting in the end.
We arrived at our cottage at Babine Lake way up north in British Columbia late last night. I attempted the outdoor painting challenge today dealing with typical northern weather, sunshine one minute and pouring rain the next. I started my painting on the dock today but eventually had to seek shelter on the deck especially since I was working in watercolour which of course doesn’t do well in rain! The experience was challenging but fun and certainly helps to loosen up one's painting style! Here is the result: “First Day at the Lake” original watercolour 14” x 11”.
Plein Air is not something I normally do, and honestly, it has been a while since I’ve done any sketching in general. Therefore this was definitely a challenge! I moved recently, and don’t currently have access to most of my art supplies. So paper and pencil it is!
I’m not sure why I picked such a complicated (for me anyway) subject to illustrate. I struggled with the lines, angles and perspective, while the light changed and the shadows shifted. It was hot out too (over 30 degrees when I started) The wind picked up at the end which also made things interesting. But I really enjoyed the experience overall. Listening to the birds. The wind blowing in the trees. Speaking of birds, a family of quail wandered through as I was wrapping things up (see video at the end). I’ll definitely be doing this again soon. Lots of fun!
My last ditch attempt at plein air for the day. Since Tilford and Gardens have opened up, I’ve been enjoying all the manicured gardens, especially the Japanese garden.
So off I went as the sun started to set...and within the first half hour, the entire lighting was gone. It felt like a race. So I did what I always told my students...get color and shape down first, then work in details. It became very impressionistic-which I really like. What do you think? Not bad for an hour and a half?
My effort for the Opus Painting Challenge. I was in Pitt Meadows with Gaye Adam’s and Sarah Kidner. It was very windy and moments after I took this photo, Sarah’s entire setup went flying. 😀. I’ve posted the painting in progress and one of the view.
I have painted plein air almost every day for the past 55 days! Very small paintings but doable in the time I had. My “canvas” was old library cards and it has been sooo much fun ignoring the lines of the cards (dates and signatures too!) and painting whatever I saw in the wild. (By “in the wild” I mean my beautiful province 🥰). My watercolour travel kit is small enough it fits in my purse so I have been carrying it everywhere just in case I caught a few minutes to create a sketch. I have had lots of fun and it’s been a great way to get out and enjoy the summer weather. (Or the rain too, I have painted a couple times in my car with the windshield wipers going.) Here are a few I painted in the last week or so. Beautiful flowers in a beautiful person’s garden (19th), a bonus Braingym class where I made some new friends (16th), and sitting in a no parking spot (22nd) hoping I could finish before anyone asked me to move my car (that was a rainy day).
I don’t think I would be afraid to tackle any subject anywhere. Hmmm France or Ireland would be a dream. For now I will settle for Tatamagouche at the end of August with my paint pal friends. Six more days to go to make 61.
Plein air study of one of the Ross Islets in Barkley Sound. Good morning of exploring and painting, that’s what plein air is all about.
Tried some plein air! The light changes so fast out in the wild, it really forces you to focus on the feeling of the location rather than the accuracy of the details itself haha. First and second (photos) are the finished piece and the others are my setup and location!
Summers are made for camping and painting! We were so lucky to be able to spend this weekend boating and camping on the water, even through the smoke! A great way to go for the Opus Outdoor Painting Challenge 2021!
Here’s a stylized painting sketch of our campsite. I was loving the deep and rich colours around me as the camp coffee percolated! Mmmm summer bliss!
I pulled over on the side of the highway this eve to paint this spot. It's right beside the visitor center as you enter Port Alberni, the road sweeps down and the mountains are a series of silhouettes above the treeline. The cars coming up the hill must have thought I was a speed trap because they all slowed wayyyyy down as they saw me. That gave me some entertainment as I worked. I ended up running out of time after an hour and a bit. So this will be a two parter. To be continued tomorrow eve... One of my favourite plein air pieces to date. Some people were randomly honking at me and some were thinking I was a speed trap. They were slowing down massively before realizing I'm just a weird guy on the side of the highway painting a picture of a road sign. On to the next one.
8x10 Plein Air Acrylic painting on wood panel.
As a Pandemic project I am sketching the flowers of Pender Islands, in the Southern Gulf Islands, where I live. I would like to submit a double-page study of Tansy Ragwort (4.5x15in) in the sketchbook I make myself. It shows the plant at three scales: the location on the side of Gunwhale Rd., a clump of plants, and details of flowers on one head. You have photos of the sketch book, location, sketch partly finished, left page, right page, double-page and my supplies, all of which (except the water bottle) fit into the Winsor Newton bag. My story is why Tansy Ragwort? One July years ago in England I found a large Ragwort covered in Cinnabar moth caterpillars. I was studying Lepidoptera. I dug it up and took it home in a bucket in the back of my Mini Countryman. When I got home the caterpillars had all disappeared. It was a long way! I shrugged my shoulders and forgot about them. Until in the following May small Cinnabar moths began appearing onside my car. Hence a memory picture for your competition .
Always fun to get out and paint. This is at Locarno Beach on a nice summer day. For the 2021 Opus Outdoor Painting Challenge.
I bring my small homemade cigar box 🎨 set up with M. Graham gouache paints whenever we go on overnight rafting excursions. The cigar box has a piece of plexi glass glued inside as a palette and I tape watercolor paper or hold a Pentallic aqua journal in the lid.☕️.
I like to paint in the early morning with my coffee by the fire (or in this case, this year, a propane firebox). These field studies were painted this July 16th-18th on the White and Kootenay Rivers of southeastern BC. Cheers to outdoor painting!
My 9 and 4 year olds wanted to take part in the OPUS Outdoor painting challenge ( #opusopc2021 ) so we packed up their watercolours and brushes and went for a fun afternoon at the Historic Stewart Farm ( @stewartfarmbc ).
The beautiful views of ocean, apple orchards and the heritage house were an inspiration for both kids. They really had a great time and are inspired to do it again (and next time I will do it with them instead of just take photos hahaha 🤣🤣🤣)
Last day of #opusoutdoorpaintingchallenge organized by @opusartsupplies . Another sketch of Mackin House as viewed from the park. Great to spend the afternoon with talented artists and staff from Coquitlam Store. Does anybody know what that contraption at the corner of Brunette and King Edward?
Q: Do you ever paint outside?
I finally 'finished' my painting for the #opusopc2021 challenge. I don’t know if it's a random draw or by talent, but I hope it's the former because man, I have no idea what I'm doing! Including the filters!! How do I filter water color pictures?! It never seems to look right. What do you guys use to color correct?
I'm at the new place but we happen to have some thistles so it worked out :) the insects at the house are so different from what we have near the old place: the bees here have legs so laiden with pollen they look like a mariachi band player!
Finished piece from painting in #PortagePark in #Langley before the @opusartsupplies Plein Air Paintout. 8x13” oil on panel.
We hope you've enjoyed learning about the experiences of just a few of the Opus Outdoor Painting Challenge entrants this year, and are excited to try plein air painting for yourself! You can see ALL of the entries and read their stories by visiting the full Opus Outdoor Painting Challenge gallery of submissions.
We would also like to thank our generous sponsors again, and encourage you to support their brand, as they've supported our arts community so well this summer:
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