Tag Archives: davenport

Plein air with friends

Moods of Wilder Ranch, by frankeber 2012       

Outdoor painting is definitely one of the pleasures of being an artist! Not many people do it nowadays, the comfort of the studio is just too much to resist. They are missing out!
There is no substitute for the direct interaction between you and the subject matter. Sure, it’s possible to do more elaborate, bigger and more involved work in the studio. But oftentimes it’s the small and spontaneous paintings that people like the most, especially when it comes to watercolor painting!

Unfortunately, going outside and setting up oftentimes comes with adversity. While painting at Davenport, we went to a cliff side (see third image) to get a good view onto the ocean and the Torey pines in the background. We did pass a ‘no trespassing’ sign, clearly there to prevent people from taking a 100ft fall onto the beach below. There was a guy in a fruit stand selling his wares at the side of the road and sure enough, he called us in! Minutes later, one of the two (!) employees of the decommissioned concrete factory came over and wanted us to leave. As it turns out, it is part of their property. It took quite a bit of persuading but eventually, he let us stay for another hour! Talking about pressure to finish your piece!! In the end they were cool, he never came back and we stayed on for much longer.

One of the best tips for painting outside is looking for something manageable. If everything looks too much or too intimidating, pick a detail view of something you like and just do that. It doesn’t always have to be an overview. It takes a bit of experience to pick the right subject matter, but if you persist I guarantee you the rewards are plenty!

The pleasure of painting plein air

moss landing, by frankeber 2012    wilder ranch, by frankeber 2012   north harbor santa cruz, by frankeber 2012   at Davenport cliffs, by frankeber 2012

Just coming back from a fabulous painting trip in and around Santa Cruz, California. Brilliant weather, great company and excellent food…what more can one possibly ask for?
It is one of the unwritten rules of plein air painting that as soon as you have finished your drawing and the first washes, the weather will completely change! When I started the painting at Wilder Ranch, it was foggy and sort of dull but a great atmosphere nonetheless. Just as I was getting ready to paint the hills, the fog disappeared and it got sunny within five minutes…
There must be a lesson in this somewhere…It is a great self-test if you can actually retain the memory of what the place was like a little while ago. That’s why I always snap pictures before I start and really take it all in. Very important. Light conditions will always change, there’s nothing we can do. I prefer to finish a painting in one go, as oppose to coming back at the same time the next day. You never know what you’ll get tomorrow! That’s also one of the reasons I prefer to work smaller outside, mostly quarter sheets.
Watercolor is the perfect medium to work with outside. It dries quickly and you don’t have to lug around heavy stuff.
Don’t make the mistake of walking around for an hour, searching for the perfect subject matter and/ or painting spot. It will never come! It’s better to just paint something you spot and like, even though it might not be perfect.  With a bit of re arranging (mostly omitting) you might just walk home with a nice painting.  A lot of time it is the most inconspicuous scenes that make the best painting. Do not look for the most photogenic or spectacular scene! Quite often, what works as a photograph never does as a painting!