Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lost in Translation

My dear friend, Kim, asked if I ever use photos as a memory aid after a painting session outdoors. I used to do this when I first started Plein Air painting, but found I often mucked the whole thing up in the process! I find that when a painting is in its final stages, it needs me to do the problem-solving thing – I stare at it for ages, from quite a distance and in different lights (dawn light is great) and I allow the painting to speak to me. Ideas of contrasting light and dark, warm and cool, hard and soft edges come to me and I go with them and complete the painting in this way.

I find painting outdoors a most meditative and healing practice. It so fits in with my need to paint intuitively. We find calm and peaceful locations, where all the worries and anxieties of the world seem to slip away for a few hours. There is a feeling, an atmosphere about a real location that is “Lost in translation” when using a photograph. I just breathe in the visual, auditory and sensory stimuli of the location and then I am thrown into the process, trying to visualize that feeling on the canvas or paper. Since I made the transition from rendering a purely figurative image to allowing the senses free expression, I feel this amazing sense of freedom.

Kim asked about dust and dirt adhering to the canvas, when acrylics outdoors. I quite enjoy texture and so am quite happy to add a bit of sand and grass to the mix! It gives the painting a sense of authenticity, a little bit of the location forever locked into the painting! You have to wait to do those lovely clear glazes back in your studio, Kim!

On Monday, I sat under a canopy of vine leaves swaying in the breeze, with the light shining through the leaves, making them translucent. I left with an unfinished watercolour, due to the antics of the baboons. In my studio, I decided to try out some of my newly acquired oil bars on the painting, thinking it is such fun just to experiment and see what happens. The contrast between the watercolour and oil bar is intense, highlighting the transparency of the watercolour. I might continue and add another wash to the piece.

Our dear friend Suki recently lost her mother and I would like her to know that even though some of us live very far away, we are thinking about her and are there for her on the www.


Kim said...


I have often thought I would like to paint 'Plein Air', but have only done so when I am working on something larger than I could handle indoors. When I did this, it worked well, but we lived in England then. So the thing is you create these paintings in one sitting? Or do you travel to this place time and again until the work is complete? I am sorry for all of these questions, but you really have me intrigued here. I always thought 'Plein Air' painters were landscape painters! Shows you how much knowledge I have. I understand there is not any reason an abstract artist couldn't paint just as you do, it is just I never really thought of it as a practice. And it would work to paint some, then return to the studio to add those glazes. And the dirt and dust might become interesting to be sure. I have some photos I will share on my blog post today to illustrate that you have me going here.

I love this painting you are working on of the vine leaves you enjoyed on Monday. I suppose those baboons wanted your muse to proceed in a different way than you considered. :) It sure made a funny story to some of us around the world. I used oil sticks a lot when we were in England and enjoyed them. I found I could not use them, though, without also using my fingers. I never tried them with watercolors, but I did use them with acrylics...which got me in trouble a time or two. But as Elis Cooke says, there is nothing several coats of gesso will not make go away. I am eager to see the wash applied. You know I like the intensity of the oil bars contrasted with the subtle watercolors. Will you show this again when/if you make any changes?

I, too, have been thinking of Suki as she moves through this challenging time. You are a dear, sweet person to share this challenge of our friend.

Thank you Dianne for explaining all of this to me. You truly have me making some considerations for how I might paint outdoors, too. Next, maybe you can talk about any special tools you use when painting on location...have you already done that?

Thanks Dianne!

Suzanne McDermott said...

I love the effect of the oil bars over the watercolor and I love the painting. Very inspirational, thank you!

Dianne said...

Dear Kim, we sometimes go to a location just once and other times we will go back for 3 or 4 visits. You are right, Plein Air painting is about painting landscapes! I am trying to bring together my own painting style, to an outdoor situation. I just love my painting friends, we have such a lovely, caring and supportive group, we have been through the ups and downs of each other's lives for about 6 years and I couldn't give them up just because my painting has taken another direction. I don't want to isolate myself in my studio. I have been thinking hard over the last couple of months, trying to come up with some way to marry the two genres and I think I am at last feeling comfortable about how I am to proceed.
So, I wouldn't call myself a "Plein Air Painter" as such, I am rather using the location to inspire me and send me in a certain direction.
I will do a posting regarding the equipment, Carol has also asked me to do this.

Dianne said...

Hi Suzanne, have you used these oil bars? Do you ever work with mixed water media?

Kim said...

Dianne, I think this is so cool. I kind of talked about this in my post today, too. I keep wondering if what you are doing is just natural painting...following your muse and feeling the energy of the place and the company. You are onto something here and I love it. I am feeling inspired to give it a shake when I can get outside to do so. It clearly is one of those things I would/could do when we travel or when we are in a different location. The world is your studio!

Thanks for making me think...

Sharon Wright said...

What an inspiring post, thank you! My only experience of painting outdoors was horrific, but you have made me feel I would like to try again.

sukipoet said...

Dianne thank you so much for your comments on my recent posts and for mentioning me in this one. I dont paint outdoors often however I often seem to have bits of debris on my painting. I have given up trying to be neat and tidy and "clean." There are some plein air painters who at least tend toward the abstract are there not? Like Marin. Others my brain cant dredge up just now. I have always wondered though about that fact of standing in front of a landscape and coming up with an abstract painting. All the "reality" one must overlook in a way. It seems an amazing feat.

Dianne said...

Dear Suki, thanks for visiting!
I have been thinking about you a lot over the last few days and will be there in spirit with you tomorrow.
If you can, try and do some painting this weekend, brush and paint can be so theraputic.
Yes, there is so much reality out there when painting outdoors- I try to look inwards in relation to what I am seeing/feeling/smelling/hearing - its more about the senses, I think.
Wishing you peace.

Dianne said...

Dear Kim and Sharon, hope you are inspired to take your paints outdoors. I know you are in the middle of winter and will have to wait until the temperature rises a bit.

~Babs said...

Very thought provoking post, Dianne.
I've not done much outdoor painting either,,it seems it's either too hot or too cold.
I'm such a weather wussie.
And, like Kim,,I always have only thought of landscape painting, or florals being outdoor work. The art of abstracting the landscape is such an exciting thought,,,and not easily accomplished,,,,for me at least.
I really like what you've done with the darks and lights in this piece, and so well balanced. Hoping you'll show us if you do another wash.

Dianne said...

Dear Babs, I know I live in a less extreme environment weather-wise, but I also had to get used to being out there in it all. When you are used to the comfort of your own studio, it is quite a discipline to be there in the wind/rain/heat/cold with only the materials you have packed and manage to produce a painting! The weather conditions (very rarely perfect) have now become so much part of what I paint, it is part of what disappears in a photograph of the landscape.

Cestandrea said...

Hi Dianne,
I marvel at your beautiful paintings, the dense and vibrant yet delicate colours in this one!

And oh, as I'm living in the city on the "colder" hemisphere, the plein air painting is restricted to a few months, (except for those painters on the Quai de la Seine and at Montmartre, who always paint outside)

So now, as it is raining here in Paris, (and even Paris is less attractive when it's pouring down:) and it's cold, your blog is a very welcomed warm excursion into the nature, and what a beautiful place! And look at those admirers watching you:) I love them.

Have a wonderful creative weekend and thanks for sharing your art

Dianne said...

Dear Andrea, thanks so much for visiting my blog and leaving such a lovely comment. You live in the most romantic city, I have only spent 3 days there and can't wait to return. I love that you use your time on the metro to create your beautiful drawings and paintings.

Kim said...

Oh Dianne, I do think you have completely inspired me. I am sad to say I do not have baboons to encourage me along :)...maybe that is really a good thing, but I just adore that story. I so appreciate you taking the time to explain all of these things to me as I feel it is good to have lots of options. I also have to say I am so very impressed you paint with other people. I am not sure I have what it takes to do that. With me, the conditions have to be so right for me to do just about anything.

Have a delightful weekend.

PS...what are the winter months like in Cape Town?

Dianne said...

Dear Kim, you are becoming my writing muse!!! I now want to write about painting in a group!
Our winter is fairly short in Cape Town, June through to September. We have these magical storms brought in by the north wind, Cape Town used to be called the Cape of Storms. Before the harbour was built, ships used to run aground regularly in the winter onto the beach just down the road from me. The power of nature! These are our rainy months and the temperatures get down to 5 degrees celcius (not sure what this is in farenheit).
Our best Plein Air painting is done in the winter due to the atmospheric quality of the weather, we just wrap up well.
Have a great weekend!

SCL said...

Dianne - thanks for the follow and some lovely paintings and images on your site - look forward to seeing more. The big difference here is that there are no baboons to interfere with the artistic process !!

Many thanks again


Dianne said...

Hi Steve,
Thanks for visiting! Took myself over to your site and loved your blog! Your paintings are wonderfully expressive and varied. Will enjoy following you.

SCL said...

Dianne - just paid another visit here - thanks for your comments and your very kind link to mine on your blog-roll - I'm off to do the same for you - many thanks again


Blue Sky Dreaming said...

Diane, You have the challenge of combining your love of Plein Air painting with your intuitive work and I think you did just that in this latest piece...beautiful shapes and color.
I've never seen baboons outside of a zoo...WOW! Welcome or unwelcome admirers!!
Mary Ann

Dianne said...

Hi Mary Ann, two months ago I was scratching my head, wondering how I was going to abstract from reality, I felt as if I was standing on a cliff, waiting to take a giant leap into the unknown. I jumped anyway and now I feel as if I have been set free somehow? Its not that difficult, just requires a lot of imagination!

Dianne said...

Thanks Steve, will enjoy following you!

soulbrush said...

oh how i envy you the peace and tranquility of your surroundings, which i know so well. fantastic balm to the soul.