Most artists wax lyrical about painting "en plein air"; outside in the open air. Just them, their view, brush in hand; how thoroughly romantic!
Whilst I completely agree with the desire to get out and get painting straight away, but as an oil painter I have to admit that it's jolly difficult to genuinely paint on canvas directly, whilst standing in a muddy field.
Whereas sketching outside is absolutely brilliant and I heartily recommend it to anyone wanting to improve their artistic skill.
I have been sketching even more in the past couple of weeks. This is largely because I was on holiday in Italy and the sun was shining and that makes life a lot easier when sketching outside. Also when you sketch on holiday you don't pack any rubbish! I had to make sure that I took only my very favourite sketchbooks, my very best painting palette and a couple of brushes. So my first rule of sketching is: pack carefully, make sure you only take what you really need. If you have to lug lots of stuff around you will be far more limited in where you can sketch.
Sketching in England during the winter time is tough. The winter months are coming up, the nights are drawing in and the window of opportunity to sketch outside is getting smaller. But those really crisp cold winter days are excellent for artists to go sketching; the light in December and January (when we have some light that is!) is really gorgeous but in order to sketch properly in the cold weather you need to make sure you're dressed with thermals underneath! You won't be out there sketching for the entire day but you might just get something most beautiful at some point in the day. Whilst holidaying in Sorrento I really was sketching for the entire day and it was absolutely fabulous sitting on my luxury bathing platform and looking out over Vesuvius, what could've been better? Though those kind of sketching days are few and far between! But they were jolly inspirational and fun while they lasted.
Have a goal in mind but don't be narrow minded. I still think soul is in landscape and seascape painting because I love capturing the changing colours in light of nature but of -late most of my oil paintings have been of animals. Which I rather love too. Sketching, anything, anything at all, helps me in all aspects of my work. Seeing different colours, learning to blend colours in a particular way without leading to a muddy messy painting will be incredibly useful in any of the animals that I attempt to paint over the coming winter months. No time in front of the sketchbook is ever wasted time. In fact it's glorious.
Learning to draw is learning to see. Whilst on holiday I found myself standing at a fantastic little spot overlooking the forum in Rome. My husband went off to explore and I sketched on my own for a bit. Happily I have visited the Forum before so I didn't feel the need to constantly take photographs. Instead I simply wanted to stop for a while and look carefully at what was in front of me. My very sketchy sketch was carried out whilst standing up leaning against a tree for support. But I noticed so many things whilst I was drawing, it may not come through to you, but my mind was racing with all of the different colours and shades that I could see in the ruins. Whenever you are drawing anything you’re taking in so much more than if you simply get out your camera and click away. As an artist it's so important to really learn to stop and get your eyes working. This in turn gets your brain working - how will you ever do that view justice? How can you capture this incredible view in your little tiny book. So sometimes when you're sketching outside you have to have in the back of your mind that the process is more important than the product. Don't get too caught up in creating a masterpiece. The masterpiece is happening inside of you.
So what am I going to do now? Now that I really am facing these winter days, the clocks will go back next week and then the evenings will get become darker and darker earlier and earlier in the day. Well it’s okay, I have plenty of source material to work from and remember all of that process, all of that work that went in to creating those sketches isn't wasted. My brain is eager and fresh to start new works on canvas in the studio. So watch this space: Louise Luton art HQ will continue to produce pieces of work throughout the Winter. Even if it is a bit dark and a bit cold.
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