Sunday, 30 September 2018

Peru part 4: Ode to the students

Ok, maybe I could just make this a general Ode to the student. However, Peru was a perfect example of hitting many of the typical challenges for plein air painters. So I am using that experience to give all the kudos to the brave students who come on my trips, or who try plein air painting.


 Plein air painting is one of the most challenging artistic disciplines around.

When painting on location, not only must you come up with a decent idea, create a flowing composition, mix colours, draw, paint, and trouble shoot.

A plein air painter also cuts out all distractions.

Plein air painters have noise, people (sometimes), wind, rain, and way too much detail staring them in the face. We must cut out about 90% of our stimulates, in order to focus, concentrate and paint.
On top of all that, we have the everchanging light. Light is extremely important to any composition, and often can make or break a scene.

Huacachina Desert:

Roaring and blowing strong wind, and low sun in the sky, which makes for fast moving light,  all BIG challenges to the artist. The lower the sun, the faster the light changes, but also the more interesting the shadows, and therefore composition. 

Paracas Nature Reserve:

Full on sun, in need of shade to make decisions about colour, and just to work. I try to always work in the shade. 

Sometimes a steep cliff can be distracting, or just the spectacular beauty of a place can be too distracting! 


cuteness is definitely a distraction

Too many people can be distracting or intimidating. Who wants to have a conversation when you are trying to focus on creating a painting. 

Grandeur can also be distracting,...or the mental distraction of realizing how astounding these archaeological sites in the Andes are!!

Casa Colibri: As mentioned in previous blog posts about Peru, this is where we stayed in the Sacred Valley, Urumbamba. 


Here are three views on the premises of Casa Colibri, that illustrate the difficulty of how much detail one must encounter when painting on location. The biggest problem is figuring out how to simplify the composition, in order to say something very clearly. This is probably the hardest challenge within plein air painting. Still, in the photos, if you can just identify the big shapes, and disregard the detail in the beginning, you can assess how well this image can translate into a painting. 

Simpler, yes, but still needing tweaking in order to make it into an effective painting. 

Pisa open air Market

Here's Bev, painting on the sidewalk at the Pisac market. Many of us encountered many children that day. I had a boy of about 10, leaning on me as he sniffled constantly, watching me paint in the market. Bev couldn't say no to these cuties, and shared her supplies. I'm sure it was a huge deal for them to try out pastels! 

She's got a baby Lama in her arms, costumed, ready to take her picture with you, but she is more enamoured of the painters, Liz and Betty, then in her vocation. 

This day is Pisac, we had many complicated scenes to choose from. The weather looked like it would rain any time (and did) as well as dealing with all these children. 

It's quite the challenge to stay focussed amid all the distractions I have listed here. That's why I praise my students who commit to the challenge of plein air painting (painting on location), regardless of all these excuses not to paint. It's much easier to take a picture and create in studio or at home later. However, a few things to be wary of: Photos do skue the perspective. Copying a photo is copying a photo. It's not composing. They do the interpreting for you, from 3 dimension to 2. Plus, it's not quite the challenge if you are not drawing what is in front of you. Learning to draw dimension by drawing what is in front of you is a foundational skill for all artists. Learn to draw, and don't skirt around the basic skills you need. 

There's a freshness that comes across in plein air that you cannot get painting in the studio.  It challenges you to keep you drawing skills absolutely up there. It challenges you to be confident in your creative ability to be spontaneous, and take risks. This is how we learn and grow. 

I am so proud of my students who have committed to this discipline. Congratulations!

Photo credits and thanks to: Janet Milne, Barb Dickson, Loretta Kucic, and Michele Baddoo. 

Congrats to the Peru Gang! 


Barb, getting a handle on the values. 

An affective composition of the Andes in warms and cools, with more possibilities, by Jan 

Loretta lets it rip with the colour!

I heard an interview with Joni Mitchell once, where she stated she didn't understand when people didn't "feel" creative. Creativity is all around us! Ideas abound! 

This is what I think of when I see Liz's artwork. Kudos toy Liz, for working hard on fulfilling so many ideas through image. 

On my trips, people work in pastel or any medium they choose. This is Liz in watercolour. 

Liz in pastel!


Liz, pen and ink, watercolour

Bev and I had a quiet day back at the ranch and created some still life. Nice job,  Bev!

Janet does very well artistically on the road.

The brave, the adventurous, the creatives,....way to go guys! 

See you next time : Portugal, here we come!

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