Monday, 10 September 2012

It's not always about the art


My latest 'plein air' adventure resulted in some fairly poor art, as usual, but that didn't matter in the slightest. I'm rapidly coming to the opinion that the 'art' is secondary to the sheer enjoyment of getting out into the countryside, on foot, ambling along listening to the birds, taking in the fresh air and enjoying the wildlife.

This time I headed to a 'wet' area near here that doubles up as a 'flood plain' receiving all the run-off water from the nearby concrete jungle. I followed a path alongside our main river, and after about a mile found that the river ran alongside a lake with the path being on a narrow strip of land between the river and the lake. It was there that I spotted a small shack under a tree in a field being ploughed by the farmer. I decided this was to be the subject of my painting. I set up my kit just to one side of the path and sat looking out across the river.

After about 15 minutes of sheer bliss and tranquillity on this warm summers day, I became aware of a movement further down the track. When I looked I saw a herd of sheep coming my way. They pretty much filled the width of the strip of land and there were scores more following the advanced party.

Being a 'townie' and never having had anything to do with sheep, or any other animals apart from my pet dogs, I admit to feeling somewhat insecure sitting in the path. So I stood up. I was hoping to make myself look big enough for them not to charge .... or is that Bulls? Anyway, I stood my ground and waited to see what would happen.




I need not have worried because, once they'd approached a little nearer, as if on command from some invisible shepherd, they smartly moved into rows of two.










If this had been a class of school children under the watchful eyes of their teachers I could not have been more impressed.




Most of them walked calmly passed without so much as a glance in my direction, though some were mildly inquisitive and couldn't help try and get a peep at my half-finished painting.







Some looked as if they wanted to say "Good morning" and have a chat.



And after several minutes of watching them stroll passed, still they came. My best estimate, for what it's worth, is that there were something like 100 sheep in all.

But I soon felt at ease with them and returned to my painting, aware that they were steadily passing by just behind me. 




Though feeling more confident now, when one of them suddenly let rip with a loud and rasping "Baaaaah", I jumped a mile and almost spilled my paints. Good job I didn't or this little guy may have received an unexpected make-over.






As I suggested at the beginning, the 'art' that took place that day was not very satisfactory. Within minutes of starting the watercolour I wasn't very pleased with the way it was going. I think we know when something just isn't working. Rather than persevere or worse, start over, I just left it. However, later at home I took a different view and decided to finish it from the reference photo's I'd taken.



And as I walked back along the river path I could see part of a Quarry over some bushes around a bend in the river. I climbed up on a fence for a better view and sat there to do this quick pencil sketch




I'm looking forward to my next walk ... whether I get to paint or not.  ;-)



28 comments:

  1. Oh how right you are, it's not always the result of the painting or as they say 'the desination' . It's the journey getting there.
    And what better journey could you have had.?
    Beautiful, tranquil setting and thank you so much for sharing it .. Love the dragonfly, ours are not so colorful. BJ

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    1. Thank you very much BJ. You're right that it's all about the journey. ;-)

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  2. Thoroughly enjoyed your ramble through the plein aire session. I got a lot from it :) Of course, not the shock element!
    I actually quite like your watercolour, and your pencil. I'm sure if you ever felt like it, they'd be a great basis for a worked up studio painting. If you don't feel like it, what memories they'll evoke, as they stand :) xx

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    1. I'm glad you got something from it and that you like my painting. I will indeed be doing a larger studio-based version very soon. Thank you.

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  3. To be honest, John. I would take your watercolour and pencil sketch in preference to any photographs. They capture the spirit of the day - and when you stitch them together with such an entertaining narrative you have the basis for a column in any quality magazine ... send it off, lad, they pay well!!

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    1. Goodness John ... coming from you, who I hold in the highest esteem, this is one of the nicest comments I've ever received. Thank you very much indeed.




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  4. John, I loved to read about your adventures in the countryside! I like both the painting and the pencil sketch, both are great studies for future paintings. I like the scene of the birds following the tractor!

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    1. I could have sat and watched those birds for ages Judy. Thanks for the nice comment.

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  5. Good morning John!... What a wonderful story to wake up to this morning!

    You are absolutely correct in your statement that painting should not just be about "finished perfection". There are so many other dividends that one receives by simply making the effort to leave the confines of a "townie" existence. One of those is to discovery that the Universe does not revolve around one's self.

    Being placed in the midst of Creation... in an entirely new setting teaches one humbly... that we are indeed just a small part of the vastness. Humility... is an art lesson just as important as draughtsmanship or colour theory.

    When we feel humbled in our artistic efforts in the face of Nature's unparalleled beauty... we should feel less critical of our attempts to capture her essence. In short John... "You" were... out there"... and came back with so much more than merely adequate... or in your evaluation... inadequate sketches. You have maintained your infectious curiosity to learn more about painting... Nature... and your Self! Good on you!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,
    Bruce

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    1. Bruce, you are so right in everything you have written here. Though I may always feel I could have done better with my painting and sketches, I can honestly say I haven't been disappointed with one single plein aire adventure. I use the word 'adventure' deliberately ... because that's what they are ... adventures. Thanks for your insightful comment.
      All the best.

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  6. Such a wonderful post, John!! Love the pictures but mostly love your beautiful sketches!!!

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    1. Thank you very much Hilda, you're very kind.

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  7. Hi John. I so love reading your plein air adventures and this one was certainly an adventure for you. I think I would have been quaking in my boots seeing these lovely belles coming towards me. Something I need to bear in mind when I next pick a spot, watch out for critters. I also really like both sketches John. You have caught the essence of the English countryside beautifully with all the boxed fields and wild flowers in the hedgerow. You are also so right about the enjoyment aspect being more important than the outcome. I too try to enjoy the experience rather than getting too bogged down about what I'm producing now. Once I sorted that out things seemed to flow a little bit better. I'm waiting eagerly to see your next adventure. Take care x

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    1. Thank you very much Laura. When I decided to step out and tackle some plein air painting and sketching, I thought it was all about the painting and sketching. I was so wrong. The 'art' is great fun and gives a reason to make the effort to go out, but it is only a small part of what makes each journey a magnificent adventure. I know you're finding it the same.
      All the best. x

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  8. Sounds absolutely heavenly John! :) And your story about the sheep has got me laughing so hard!! Stand up to intimidate them. :) I wish I could have been there to see. And I think your art is lovely, captured the feel of the place I'm sure.

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    1. I'm glad my story made you smile Crystal. I squat on the smallest tripod stool you can imagine and from that low view point those sheep looked like horses. lol. Thank you very much.

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  9. Mother Nature is a balm to the soul and you have discovered why I do plein air. Your photographs are exquisite - you should consider the two sheep wanting to chat. I can see it in beautiful bright 'wartacolors'. Sorry, I couldn't resist. My joyful nature exploded just thinking of this imaginary work. Blessings to you - I love your blog.

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    1. Thank you very much Trudy. I has taken me a long time to discover plein air but now I have, I'm hooked. And I may just have to paint those sheep one of these days. ;-)

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  10. I remember painting outdoors some time ago. I sat in a field near a lake, only to turn some minutes later and find myself just feet away from two MASSIVE cows - staring at me!!!! I am absolutely petrified of cows and have been ever since I was chased across a field by an entire herd! I get the shivers just thinking about it. Needless to say I ran so fast across the foot bridge, dropping my watercolours, brushes, paper and almost falling flat on my face! No wonder I do it as little as possible these days! I like your painting and your drawing. Both very different from eachother. Lovely! :0)

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    1. That must have been a very scary moment Sandra and I don't blame you for getting out of there quickly. I haven't encountered cows at close quarters yet ... and I shall do my best not to. lol
      Thanks for the lovely comment. ;)

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  11. I had to laugh at your townie comment of making yourself big and standing your ground - they were sheep not cows. btw if they were bulls, get out of there slowly but swiftly.

    The painting is nice (perhaps the tractor's a little too red?). the quarry sketch is fabulous.

    I agree the act of going out sketching is not really about the sketching but enjoying ourselves.

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    1. I thought you'd have a chuckle at my display of bravado - lol. Glad you like the Quarry. Happy sketching. ;)

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  12. Sounds like you had a wonderful time regardless of the result which I think is really beautiful and sums up the beauty of the landscape, and I love the tale and your humorous ways :-)

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  13. Sometimes it's good to know I'm not the only one struggling with my painting. I especially like the quarry sketch and the dragonfly. Must've been something to see all those sheep!

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    1. I can't imagine YOU struggling with your painting Linda. Thank you very much for visiting. ;-)

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