Setting aside the joys of just being outside experiencing our magnificent countryside in all seasons and sharing the occasional good times with artistic friends, what is it that drives artists like myself to paint outdoors?
When you think about it, there are plenty of obstacles to venturing out. Changing weather and freezing temperatures don't make it easy, neither do mosquitoes, black flies, ticks and poison ivy. Makes one wonder - where is the reward?
When I set out, loaded with painting gear, I keep an open mind as to a subject for the day, unless I am giving a demonstration for example. When I find a motif that interests me, I like to be free of outside influences so that when I settle in to paint, the time of day, weather and light conditions – all the ambiences - will be at play. That's my mission. Sometimes the process comes easily leading to a quick start. At other times it is evasive – time to move on.
This chance process leads to the occasional poor effort. They get discarded. When my instincts all come together, and I record what excites me, I can produce a painting that far exceeds my expectations; the years of painting experience provide me with the means to go beyond detail, to listen to my inner voices and to allow the painting to sail on without conscious effort. And when at last, I put down my brushes, I feel exhausted, drained. I pack up my paints with a big smile and a warm feeling of deep satisfaction.
The painting, The Back Gate, (above) is a case in point. On a sunny day in June, I came cross an unusual gate in the forest. A brilliant sun was lighting up the background and garden grounds beyond. I was mesmerized by the effect. Who would use the gate? Why did someone go to the trouble to carefully make it and install it into the the old log fence? In short time I had an idea for a painting. I had enough to make my own story.
And no, I don't just like plein air painting – I love it! I hope that my paintings show it.
The Art of Charles Spratt