Finally, I have made my first attempts at Plein Air landscape painting – and what a challenge it is. The elements, changing light conditions, limited kit… but so enjoyable.
I ordered an OpenBoxM palette/panel holder which arrived from the US a few weeks ago. It’s quite a luxury item, and isn’t cheap. It is extremely well made though, and pretty lightweight and adaptable. I don’t have another pochade box to compare it to, but so far I haven’t found anything that I don’t like about it.
To further keep things simple, I have been using a limited palette of Lemon Yellow, Ochre, Cad Red Light, Alizarin, Ceruleum and Ultramarine + white – all Old Holland. I’m struggling with getting a really good dark, so may add some Prussian Blue and Raw Umber too. While this is pretty much a palette influenced by the Impressionists (who never used black), in the longer term I’ll probably include Ivory Black as well, especially as I like the greys you can easily produce with it. As my teacher Nick reminded me, prior to The Impressionists, black always used to be on the landscape palette. Sargent complained to Monet that he could not paint outside without black, and that’s good enough for me!
In the meantime, working with any sensible limited palette is good practice. Resulting paintings have greater colour harmony and you get to know a few colours really well (as opposed to a superficial knowledge of the affects of many).
As time goes on, I hope I will be able to reduce my plein air kit to something really pared back. I currently take out quite a big selection of brushes, but I know I’ll soon be able to identity the most useful ones and leave the rest at home. And as I slowly get to grips with all of the new challenges outside of studio painting, I hope to focus more on the accuracy of drawing again. That’s one thing that I know has slipped while my focus has been elsewhere. Still, I feel happy with my first efforts. For me, they capture something of what it felt like to be outside in nature, experiencing the temperature, light and movement. It’s a human response, not a snapshot.