Monday, June 27, 2011

The Perils and Pleasure of Plein Air/Split Boulder at Bluff Point oil sketch

6"x 8" oil sketch on linen mounted on panel

"Do not be timid and squeamish.....All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes going out to paint en plein air is filled with risk. You can manage a lot of risk by just being prepared. It does get easier over time. But there are those outings where you know you'll have to put some extra thought into it. I've been wanting to bring my paints out to the end of Bluff Point (here in Groton, CT), where the big split boulders lay at the edge of the water. It's about 2 miles out from where you park your car so I knew I'd have to pack really light. I've narrowed down my gear over the years and I've written about my back pack & set-up in a previous post back in April. But there's no way I'm willing to haul that out for two miles on a warm day! So, I decided I'd put my little "pochade box" to use. Some folks call it a thumb box, as there is a hole in the bottom for your thumb to fit, so you can hold it while you paint. It holds a little 6"x8" panel, a tiny palette for your paint, and room for short handled brushes under that. Not much room, but not much weight either. I decided to stick to Tim Bell's limited palette that I had tried out the other day, which is a few tubes less than what I normally carry.

There's a bumper crop of poison ivy out there this year, so I made sure to watch out for that as well as trying to keep out of the brushy areas to avoid ticks! Found a rock to sit on that provided a decent view. The only thing I'd do differently next time is to bring a cushion (of some type) to sit on. I usually stand when I paint with my regular set-up (an 8x10" Open Box M). But with this tiny hand-held box, I knew I'd want to sit. I'd be out in the open with no shade, so I had to turn and get myself situated so that there was no sun hitting my canvas or palette. It can be done, but it wasn't easy. I wasn't sure I was going to be happy at all with this little study. I had hoped to use this as a study for a larger work. The air was perfect out there today & the fragrance of salty sea air mingled with wild honey-suckle is pretty wonderful. Like the fisherman who claims "Even a bad day fishing is better than a good day at......(you fill in the blank). I knew that I'd had a good morning whether I was happy or not with the sketch. I pulled it out of the box a few hours after I got home & looked at it from across the room. Yes, truth! The essence of that brilliant light that I was after was there after all! So, for the box I rarely use, I did find that it served me well to keep things really small and light for this little bit of exploration! I plan to get some more sketches out there. It is one of my favorite places to hike and has been for over the last sixteen years. We have a lot of family memories there.

So even though I wouldn't consider this one a 'finished painting' I did get what I was after. A good collection of color notes to remember the day by and serve me well as a good resource for a larger painting. I've added a little photo of the thumb-box (or pochade box, sounds like po- shawd) so you can see what a tiny thing it really is. I don't love using it, but it really serves it's purpose for a long trek!

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