Painting outside is probably the single most important thing I do as an artist.
I never used to venture into the great outdoors with my paper and brushes, mostly out of fear and ignorance. Why would I leave the comfort of my studio to lug all my gear - what if it rains, or what if my painting really sucks and people stare at it? It wasn’t until I took a plein air painting workshop in Gloucester, MA that I fell in love.
It started early in the morning, around 8 am on a beautiful sunny day in Gloucester. My first painting - a seascape. The smell of seaweed, boats rocking, and the light splashing of water along the shoreline rocks - I knew at that moment, “this is what I want to do”. My painting wasn’t the best - but that didn’t really matter. All that matters when you’re out there is getting the scene down on paper. There’s no time to think about technique, or theoretical artsy terms. Mother Nature forces you to either paint or go home empty handed.
I pack up my easel, which is basically a tripod that folds up nicely. Along with my brushes and paper, I make sure to fill my palette with fresh paint. Then I bring a bottle of water, a baseball cap, and head out! I’ve had rain cause me to head back early, but fortunately raindrops look great on a watercolor painting! Last week, it was so windy that my paper flew off the easel a couple times - but I persevered and even got a bit of footage on my GoPro camera (just picked this up and I’m addicted!). I painted in Central Park for the first time recently. It was gorgeous out, and a lot of tourists crept up on me. I thought I was hidden and tucked away well enough - but New York is a different animal. So painting there is always a challenge.
In fact, painting outside has taught me more about myself as an artist. I begin to understand what it is I’m drawn to. I just take a look around and ask myself, “what would make a great painting?” Like many artists, I love painting water. The Hudson River is a 5 minute walk from my studio, so I spend plenty of time there observing the landscape. I also enjoy cityscapes, but I hate capturing too much detail. So when I’m in Manhattan walking around, I squint when I’m admiring architecture and how light peeks through the larger-than-life concrete jungle that is New York. Squinting helps me eliminate detail, so I can focus on getting a solid painting without worrying about the million windows that line every building. (FYI, I often wear sunglasses so that nobody sees my squinting at them and thinks I’m angry, or even nuts!)
I love sharing pictures from my mini-travels to show what inspires me and how I make my paintings a bit more interesting. Join the list below to keep in touch with me as I bring you into my studio so you can see how I make my art.