Painting Outside At Sunrise

Artists motivated and properly equipped to paint outside, often referred to as “en plein air” or “alla prima” enjoy the challenge of capturing a local scene when the atmosphere is purest and that is at the beginning of the day. Being in position at sunrise, offers artists so much more drama whether foggy or bright than working in the studio. It also gives the artist a great opportunity to study nature so that when we do have to work inside we have strong visual memories to draw upon.

Having packed all your gear the night before is strongly recommended. Getting out on location without your brushes or canvas is beyond disappointing. It helps if one has lots of coffee and pastries as well, to ease the jolt of that early morning alarm going off as you make your way to site. Another good idea is to have already picked out your preferred location based on the direction of the sun. With all these basics in place, all you have to do is set up and start, keeping you on pace with the light which is only about 1 ½ hours before the entire scene changes. Those early morning clouds floating in delicate pastels can be simply amazing and not believed unless actually observed.

Plein air paintings have a “painterly” effect of looseness that conveys the spirit of an artist but it does not mean sloppy. Actually, it means the artist reduces many details down to an artistic brush mark that shows all the information that is needed. Here, it is really important for the artist to have studied how to distill those elements down technically with value tones, color, brushwork and shapes in order to create a very accurate rendering that is identifiable yet not photographic.

Painting on location is very stimulating, provoking an emotional response. Viewers respond to this heightened sensory experience so it is important for the artist to let their conversation with nature lead the way as they decipher a sunrise, painting the atmosphere surrounding the subject.

Laurie Warner
Visit: Nouveau Art Gallery


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