Saturday, 30 July 2011

Lost my virginity ...

... or in other words, I've finally had my first plein air experience.

I promised myself that the next opportunity I had, I would try and be courageous and attempt something plein air. I have been inspired entirely by my blogger friends. I have long been a fan of Keith Tilley and thoroughly enjoy his exploits into the wild and rugged Scottish hinterland where he lives. The first urges to try it myself came from Sandra Busby's account of her day with Sue Pownall and I can imagine how wonderful that must have been. More recently, Michael Bailey's quick sketches have inspired me to finally make the effort. There are others whose blogs have contributed to the many small 'kicks' that have ultimately led to me losing my virginity.

Sketch 1 - Beach Gardens
My wife and I have just spent a couple of days on the east coast and the opportunity to embarrass myself in front of scores of strangers finally presented itself. Before I say any more I must say that ALL of the sketches I produced are poor. They were very hastily and nervously scratched out but for me the pleasure, satisfaction and sense of achievement comes NOT from the quality of the sketches, but from the challenge of drawing in public and the barriers I succeeded in breaking down. I am not a confident person and I have a low opinion of my art, so to attempt something in public was a double challenge.

Sketch 2 - Southwold Pier
While doing the first sketch of the Beach Garden at our holiday resort, two ladies who had been sitting nearby, passed behind me and one of them said "Wow, did you just draw that?". We exchanged a few brief pleasantries and they went on their way. Though they couldn't see much since I was using a small A5 pad, it was nice of them to comment and made my first experience a pleasant one.

The second sketch was done sitting on a cliff top bench high above Southwold pier. The bench was on the public pathway and scores of people were passing by. None of them spoke and I kept my head down, but I was aware of the passing eyes.

Sketch 3 - Beach Gardens
The third effort was a more serious attempt at producing a worthwhile picture, though it had to be done standing up, which I found particularly difficult. Again I used pen but this time on an A4 pad. I had my watercolour pencils with me so I was able to add some colour which I then touched up with my Aquabrushes.

My final effort was a very quick doodle of the view in front of me as we stopped beside a lake for a quick snack.

Sketch 4 - Lakeside picnic
As I've previously stated, I'm under no illusion as to how poor these are from an art perspective, but this exercise was never about the art. Whether or not I ever reach the stage of attempting a proper watercolour painting plein air remains to be seen, but I will certainly be making a bigger effort to carry a pen and sketch pad with me when I go out and about. To all my blogger friends who have inspired me, thank you. ;-)


  1. I want to be the first to congratulate you on your accomplishments. Both the sketches which I find very passable,,and the biggie is the attempt to do it in public. That is the real challenge, Keep your head up, you did fine. BJ

  2. Well done John!

    Actually, I don't think the sketches are at all bad. 'Beach Gardens' is very accomplished.

    I hope that this first outing will have helped you to realise that a lot of the fears are unfounded. As a quiet sort of person myself, I know how hard it is. I still get nervous painting with people around. I think though, that by persevering it does get better.

    You will probably also have found that these sketches help to make the trip more memorable.

  3. Thanks Barbra Joan. I have to confess it wasn't as bad as I'd expected once I got into it.

    That's very kind of you Keith, thank you. You're certainly right about making things more memorable. I can remember much more detail of each of those places than if I'd simply taken a photo. I'll definitely be doing this again.

  4. Well if I have inspired you in some way to get out there and sketch, then I am absolutely delighted! I also have a fear of sketching in public and have yet to make it more of a regular thing. Incidentally, Sue and I are meeting up again this thursday for another sketchy day! A year has gone by already since the last one!
    Why do you say these sketches are poor?? I strongly disagree! I prefer looking at sketches than any other type of art. I think it says so much more about the artist and they are so much more intiguing to view. I personally think they are ALL charming! Have you ever been on the Urban Sketchers blog? There are sketches from all sorts of people on it and it is well worth a visit!
    Anyway, now you have lost your virginity, I hope you get out there again for some more skeching :0)

  5. Thank you very much Sandra. A year already? Wow!! Thanks for telling me about the Urban Sketchers blog ... I'll check it out first chance I get. ;-)

  6. Excellent stuff, John. You did really well for a first outing. I'm delighted to have been one of those that inspired you to get out there and draw and paint en plein air. The main thing is to keep it up - a little and often is better than a lot once in a blue moon!

  7. I am so pleased that Sandra & I inspired you to sketch. We had our 2nd annual sketch day today, which was fabulous. Maybe next year you can join us?

    I think your results are great. Please don't be hard on yourself, afterall sketches aren't really about the finished result but the skills you are practising - observation, mark making etc.

  8. What are you talking about, Poor? Plein aire sketches are an aide memoire and remind you of light conditions and scenery. They do that job beautifully!

    It is nerve wracking doing it for the first time. I'm glad you made it through ok :)
    Look forward to you going on your next outdoor sketching trip :)

  9. John it looks as if you enjoyed yourself doing these, and now that you have lost the fear of painting in public, I guess there will be no stopping you in the future!
    I know what it's like to go out there and sketch 'en plien air', as I did just that this week - results and blog coming soon.

  10. Sketchday II is here

    and I've linked this post to it :)

  11. Thank you Michael. I have to say, I hadn't realised how different it would be sketching from real life rather than a photograph. I'll certainly be ceasing every opportunity from now on.

    Sue, how lovely of you to comment and thank you for the kind words, the invitation and the link from your blog. Your day with Sandra and Kerry looks heavenly and that Priory must have been oozing with sketchables around every corner. Can't wait to see what you all produced.

    Thank you Pat. I think sometimes I expect too much. ;-)

    Yes Frank, I did enjoy myself even though I was more aware of the movements around me than what I was sketching. I'll do better next time. ;-)

  12. Hi John, I'm just new to your blog. I was curious why that title "Lost my virginity..." I laughed really when I was reading and what you meant by that title. And I like your blog.

  13. Hi Cora, and welcome to my blog. I'm glad the somewhat odd title aroused your curiosity and that you decided to stop by. Thank you.