Plein air painting is the equivalent of doing exercises to keep in shape. Then when you need power, strength and endurance ~ it’s at your fingertips.
While I enjoy plein air painting, it’s not always practical to do so. This painting, for example, is inspired by weeks of driving around Tuscany drooling over the stunning autumn colors.
Most of the time, I was sitting shotgun while Jim drove. Better I am free to oogle out the window and let someone else stay out of the way of Italian drivers!
“The power of emotion equals passion!”
Sparkling blue turquoise skies in October dazzled me with their deep intensity. Golden leaves ranging from bright yellow and ochre to greenish gold, orange, vermilion, and bronze ~ created a magical flickering tapestry across the sky. I couldn’t wait to paint it!
My block in began with the biggest brush I had and the biggest canvas, which was a 20″x 16″ piece of linen. I moved quickly, as if signing my signature, to capture how I felt in that moment.
Then I set it aside to dry.
One doesn’t just pull off the side of the A-1 and set up a plein air easel. That would be like trying to paint in the median on I95! Even parking in some of the hilltop villages, space was often at a premium.
After years of exercising my plein air brush hand, I opted to paint from memory instead. Back in the Tuscany studio, I called on all those plein air paintings I have done in the past thirty years ~ and used the power of my emotion at my fingertips!
I came back to the painting several times, each time finding yet another layer of emotion at my fingertips.
Expressionism, in my way of thinking, is working in a way which always insures my feelings are raw and authentic.
What do you think? Can you FEEL the emotion in the painting? How does it feel to you?
I thought living in Overwhelm was Normal, until I recovered my passion for living on a retreat in Tuscany
One of the things I love most about Tuscany is the color.
Though one thinks first of verdant green fields with winding roads, being there in the fall is more about vibrant gold, bronze, and crimson.
In September the landscape in Tuscany turns from verdant green to gold. When we arrived September 10th, the transformation was just beginning. Subtle at first, I painted ‘Rain on the Mountain’ en plein air, overlooking the Arno River Valley (Val d’Arno.)
There’s something about a rainy day, so peaceful. All the subtleties of life are magnified. Like meditating, painting helped me find stillness.
Not one to sit still, I had gotten sick upon arrival. It turned out to be a blessing. I stopped trying to do what I thought I was going to do in Tuscany ~ and just rested!
Reluctant, yet Willing
Reluctant at first, I played with tiny watercolors in my sketchbook. The Creative Spirit within massaged my spirits with gentle flow. Day by day I recovered stamina.
All the while that judge in my head kept going on about, ‘what will I do with these?” I ignored him, for the most part, and continued painting. Though his rant continued ~ gradually he faded away and my passion came into focus.
As my sketchbooks filled up, I found myself wishing for more ~ larger paper. We’d planned to go to Cortona, to procure some at the little art supply shop. Alas, I got sick again.
A week later I had enough stamina to ride to Cortona and walk up the hill to the little shop and purchase three blocks of Magnani Toscana watercolor paper; the largest a whopping 41 x 31 cm!
Wrapped in Ethereal Light & Colors
The view from Cortona was ethereal. I sat down on a park bench in the piazza and painted it. Gentle colors with lots of white space wrapped me. Soothed, my eyes wandered inspired to paint another. My body said, ‘get back in the car you’ve done enough for today.’
Sad, yet unlike the woman I once was, I followed instructions and returned to the car. Jim drove us home to Poggio Alla Croce. I took a nap.
Harvest Time & All is Ripe
On my last day in the village, Dario took me down into the olive grove to walk and paint in the landscape I’d painted from the mountain.
It was very late in the afternoon on the last day of October. Shadows were long. Time short.
I set up the easel facing the last remaining pools of sunlight. Painting as quickly as possible, I wished only capture that precious moment with Dario.
Turquoise paint already saturated in my palette from earlier in the day, spread intensely the moment my brush touched the page. As if signing my name . . .
“Oh wow!” I felt the rush of energy.
Grabbing another color I followed the Creator’s flow of instructions. Next thing I knew, it stopped.
This 30″ x 40″ Russian linen canvas was my ticket. I blocked in layers of translucent clouds with a large spatula-shaped palette knife. Then I waited.
A week later the canvas was dry. I’d been working on other cloud paintings and had new ideas about glazes. Mixing up some very thin, transparent colors ~ I scumbled atmospheric clouds and sky into the rough woven texture of the linen.
Passion for Painting Clouds ~ Retreat Discoveries
Signature Style & Passion
Scumbled is a painting term that refers to light over dark, with a scraggly brush marks. The calligraphy of a painting is very important, like a signature. This is an extension of how one would sign their name ~ without thinking!
During my retreat I had focused on painting this way. Thinking about my painting being an extension of my signature, I sought to release any idea of trying to control it. Similar to a signature, while we might wish to have it be legible, most often we simply make our mark and move on.