En plein air

It is overcast with a little sliver of sunshine poking through, five degrees cooler than yesterday and the wind is threatening to build. Today is an en plein air day and I will be meeting up with four artist friends in a couple of hours.

The west coast of British Columbia is a place joined by ferries. Inlets curve and curl, deep fjords cutting into the mainland. In a car-cultured world, ferries are a necessity and our destination today is down at one of these ferry terminals.

Well, actually, it is right next door to the terminal. There is a little harbour and it will be the small boats tied up to the dock that will be our subject.

So, what to take? Over the years I have wisened up to reduction. Less is definitely more and although it would be good to take an easel, canvas, all my paints, it just isn’t practical. The intent of painting outside is not necessarily to paint an entire picture from start to finish, but to immerse within the environment and gather enough information so that back home, where I have everything I need, I can use that research to create, hopefully, a compelling piece of art.

A deck chair, waterproof jacket, extra sweater – should I take the umbrella? – two sketch pads (one for just the black ink pens and the other if I decide to use my Promarker pens), lunch, water, camera, and a backpack to carry most of these items.

Ok, seven hours later and here I am back at home, with a few mosquito bites and a sketch to show for it. The weather was beautiful, a slight breeze kept me holding my paper down, and the insects kept me distracted. However, that is what en plein air is all about. Here is my sketch.

Sitting at the dock, Saltery Bay

If you look at the photo above, you can see I have narrowed down the focus to just include one and a half boats. The sailboat is the one with the yellow door, followed by the red awninged motor boat behind. I decided to ignore all other boats.

And, you can see it is unfinished. I have yet to fill in the rest of the trees on the island beyond, but I gathered enough data to know I could finish that at home.

A note, too, that these boats move…literally. One of my artist friends was creating a lovely watercolour of a line of boats along a dock and one of them left. So, it is good to take photos as soon as possible to at least have something to work from should your subject move away!

I hope this inspires you to grab pen and paper, a snack and some water, and venture outside – even into your backyard – and draw.