Plein air adventures

Plein painting on Dartmoor Vicki HutchinsPlein air on Dartmoor artist Vicki Hutchins

Yesterday I spent most of the day on Dartmoor, painting, sketching, walking and saying hello (from a safe distance) to the wild ponies, cattle and sheep.

Sustained by hot tea and bacon and beans from our camping stove, I managed to paint a quick oil sketch in about an hour and a half – by the end I was freezing, though I had on my winter woolly hat and thick fleece jacket – that’s Dartmoor for you. Beautiful but brutal.

It seems there’s so much to remember with plein air painting but really it’s just the same things to remember when studio painting: composition, value, contrast, movement, etc…..except the approach is completely different.

My studio paintings come about from a place I’m inspired by, and the process is more intuitive. The feel of a place is more important to me than whether I put in the right number of trees (unless it suited my purposes).  If I use photographs, it’s only in the very beginning to establish composition, otherwise I focus too much on irrelevant detail.

Plein air painting, as you can imagine then, is a challenge for me not to be overwhelmed by detail.

What features are essential to my painting, what to leave out, plus fast changing weather and light makes for a heady (but strangely exciting and moreish) experience.

I don’t see myself as a plein air painter at all, but, apart from the fact I’m starting to enjoy it, I see it as skill building, much like life drawing class.

For a while I struggled to see how painting plein air relates to my studio work, but I think I’ve broken through this brain barrier.  Actually, my husband pointed out, quite logically, that why shouldn’t I have a similar approach to plein air as I do with my other work – i.e. use what is there as a basis, but take detours as necessary.  Like I do anyway!

And now I’m interested to see where the influence of plein air painting affects my studio work, which I’d like to be even more abstracted than it already is in some cases.

What I have quickly realised though, is painting plein air, doing  more of a “proper” considered piece, provides much more inspiration than quick thumbnail sketches or loose watercolours I do.  Standing at an easel for a couple of hours, taking in all that information, it’s really powerful for imprinting the essence of a place into your being.

I am mostly happy with this attempt – it was a step forward in many aspects and I can feel my confidence building, which makes it easier for next time. I’m looking at it a day later and I’m right back there among the ponies and blustery wind, cup of tea in hand.  I think I left a piece of my soul up there.

Dartmoor in May by artist Vicki Hutchins

 

Afterwards, I sketched from the car, relieved to get out of the wind. Luckily there were panoramic views all around, so I was spoilt for inspiration.

Dartmoor studies - sketchbook of Vicki Hutchins

Happy happy days.

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May retrospective

It’s half term week here in the UK, so I’m on Mum duty pretty much full time, which is just the way I like it when school is out, as they grow up too quickly, and before you know it, they’re getting tattoos and eating junk.  That is an actual true story.

I’ve had so much I wanted to blog about in the last week or so – paintings to share, thoughts to ramble on about, but time ran away from me.  Plus the weather is so nice, we’re never indoors.

So I thought I’d do a round up of what went on over the last month, as I’m struggling to keep track of it all!

A big step for me was joining Somerset Art Works, which I kind of feel intimated by.  It’s a mark of my growing confidence I was able to do this.  This is a semi formal organisation that runs Open Studios once a year, and I hope in the future to be able to open up my studio.  Also, I want to meet some painting buddies!

I’m also considering entering an Open Exhibition, which closes for entries on 18th July, so I have a little time yet to avoid doing anything about this till the last minute.Ha!

I’m also donating two postcard paintings for a fundraiser – hope someone wants them!

I’ve also purchased a shopping trolley…..like your Nan used to have.  Yes.  I’ll have to name it, it’s quite an object.  It’s for carting about some plein air gear.

I’ve had a month of exploring with collage and claybord, and not as much time as I’d like with my sketchbook.

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Having already had a dabble with lino printing, I plan to use my contour drawings as a basis for prints.  I loved doing these!

Earlier in the month, I painted a series based on the pink blossom all over my local park.  Most of these are oil paintings, though some started life with acrylic.  I used lots of texture and scraping back with these.

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And I’ve also stared framing up some of my original work to release a summer collection!  This is a lot of work, but I’m so pleased with how it’s going.  Subscribers to my newsletter get first dibs at special prices before they get released into the wild.

Next up, I was so inspired by the rapeseed fields I had to paint them.  I used only three colours (burnt umber, cerulean blue and cad yellow medium) for all of these, and I think they work so well.

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The two with the palette knife are my postcard fundraisers.

Then, in an inspired moment, I dragged my plein air kit into the garden to paint the last light on my climbing hydrangea.  I loved doing this.  You can see progress shots on my Facebook page.

Climbing hydrangea - plein air painting by Vicki Hutchins
Climbing hydrangea and yellow watering can

There are composition issues with this (the placement and missing bottom of the watering can) but it was such fun I dragged my kit with me again when we took a trip to the beach on Sunday evening.

It was a beautiful afternoon, and I painted my socks off – but it was a whooooole bag of wrong.  This can happen to me sometimes, I become a slave to detail.  So yesterday I painted the sunset at the beach, where the memory of the light and the smell of sausages we cooked lingered.

Sunset at Exmouth by artist Vicki Hutchins
Last light at Exmouth beach

And I think that is it! So bear with me till school is back, where I’ll have more time to blog and say Hi!

 

Monday musings

After all, what else is there to do on Mondays, except muse.

I’m feeling very centred lately.  I think this is because of the amount of time I’ve spent outdoors.  Potting up plants, watering them, seeing the garden come to life in the sunshine has revived me I think.  I wasn’t aware I needed reviving – but I think being busy outdoors does that to a person.

I’m still loving the paintings I posted last week , which is a good thing, as often if I love something right away, I can quickly un-love it!

Sunday evening my husband and I headed up into the hills where we live. Its a designated area of outstanding natural beauty, with great 360 degree views.  Out of nowhere a large herd of wild horses stampeded past us into the sunset – it was like a western!

I’ve never been in such a state of awe and fear – it was just magical ! We didn’t linger though, as there wasn’t so much as a tree to hide behind if they took off again.

Today has been back to work:  spending a bit of time making frames for my upcoming release of original paintings (yeyyy!), sketching out some landscape compositions and even a spot of painting – all in the garden of course.

Landscape sketches - from the sketchbook of Vicki Hutchins
Landscape value studies.  The top two are fleeting glimpses of a view whilst travelling in the car, whilst the bottom two were more detailed because I walked the area, and took photos.  
On the easel - artist Vicki Hutchins
Cheats plein air!  Outside yes,  but painting from studies.  

The extreme sport of plein air painting

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Yesterday I was battered by Storm Susie, whom I had no idea was arriving. I certain didn’t invite her.

I always manage to pick the day when the weather is atrocious: wind, rain and very cold fingers do not make for getting in the creative flow!

However, these sorts of days do make for a loose and lively sketch – no hanging around, just the muji pen to lay in some quick lines, then straight to the aqua brush and my cute little travel tin I keep gouache in.

Then back on go the woolly gloves!

Sundown at Longrun Meadow

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I’ve painted this scene many times, plein air and back at home.  Another favourite dog walk route, this is a local meadow in my town.  This piece really was about experimenting with a triadic colour scheme (orange, green & violet), so I used some old cheap pastel paper (the type the comes in a pad without the glassine) but actually I love the effect!

Frozen in spring

ExmouthMy very patient mister agreed to come with me to Exmouth for my first en plein air session!  I’d had the kit (a pochade on a tripod) for a while, but like a rabbit caught in headlights, after filling it with my oil paints I then spent many afternoons looking at it wistfully.  So one day I just woke up and we went.  We took a flask of tea: very smug.  And needed, because it was unbelievably cold.
Unfortunately I picked the windiest day to tackle a beach plein air.  It rained – hard.  I became a human umbrella, desperate to keep the wet from my oils, even though we were sheltered in a sort of glass seating thing.
The experience was as challenging as I expected.  Gusty wind is damn aggravating.  My hair kept blowing all about my face and ended up oily because I get paint everywhere, like a toddler at pre-school.  But it was in many ways easier than I expected.  Yes, clouds do move swifly, so a bit of improvisation is required, the light changes are frighteningly fast on the sea, but I decided early on to get my light in.  What I loved about it was the being outdoors.  Painting the actual world.  The smells, the sounds, the weather and the people.  Many stopped, and I loved that they said hello.  People are so encouraging!
The picture above shows where I was about halfway through.  It was not a piece I would want to show in any closer detail – in fact, I ended up wiping it, because, well, why not!  It wasn’t that good at all, but I really am okay with that because I loved the experience and I know that for me, plein air will be a main part of my creative practice.  Plus, the fish and chips at lunchtime after to warm you up is sheer bliss.
This is me in action, snagged from my Instagram feed. Wrapped up like it was Alaska and still cold.
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