This post originally published Feb. 9, 2013
When I went up to the BWCAW (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness) last week, the purpose of my trip was to attend a Plein Air Artist Retreat organized by The Art Colony in Grand Marais, Minnesota. This was my first time attending an event where the majority of the participants were painters. I have always admired painters and the work they create and when I visit a museum, I tend to gravitate to the old oil paintings. They are so captivating with their shiny, glossy texture that make the painting come to life. The fact that many of them have survived the test of time and are still beautiful after hundreds of years is amazing to me.
I learned a lot from watching this Plein Air group of artists. Unlike capturing a photographic image, which can occur in a hundredth or even a thousandth of a second, it can take a painter several hours to recreate a scene. Certainly there are those who can do it faster and some take longer. It almost made me feel careless about my work, moving about so quickly here and there, one composition after another. Like I wasn’t studying hard enough. Painters, on the other hand, set up their tripod (easel) in one spot and there it stays until the piece of work is completed.
Painters must spend a lot of time engaging in an in-depth study of color. If they are trying to replicate what they see with their eyes, they will mix their paints, adding and taking away, until they find the right match for each element in a scene. I think they must develop an intimate relationship with color, fully understanding highlights and shadows, tints and shades, intensities, chroma and saturation. Photographers concern themselves with these things too but not to the extent that painters do, at least in my personal experience. I’m sure there is a photographer or two out there who would argue that they work just like a painter does. I’m just not one of them.
Something else I learned is that many of them prefer static light. It is challenging to paint a scene where light is rapidly changing, such as a sunrise or sunset time of day. Where do you stop the color shift and start the painting? It reminds me of how a mood ring changes color. As a photographer, I can attest to this color blending effect as the sun rises in particular. I will take many exposures as the light changes in the sky, especially if there are clouds. Cloud color can go from dark blue to gray to orange to pink and white in a couple of minutes. If you want to show this progression in your images you will be making a lot of captures very quickly. When the sun sets, this happens in a slower and reverse fashion. Clouds will go from white to pink and maybe orange, perhaps purple to a gray/dark blue mix. A painter must also consider the color of the sky ranging from dark to medium to light blue to pink on the horizon line. The degree of lightness and darkness in those colors alters very quickly over 15 to 30 minutes as well.
This week, instead of showing my photographic work, I’d like to post website links for the painters who have them and for the rest, I will put a link to the work they made during the retreat that is currently showing in an exhibition at The Art Colony. There are some artists I did not meet because I left before the event was over, so I am only putting up links to the ones I met.
I hope you enjoy the work of these very talented professionals. They are listed in alphabetical order.
Scott Lloyd Anderson
Kristin Blomberg, Ron Dietman, John Franz and Carol Holmblad do not have websites that I can find, but you can see Kristin’s, Ron’s and John’s pieces from the event on the Art Colony’s Facebook page. It also includes work from all the artists who attended the retreat and gave pieces to the Art Colony to exhibit. Here is a link:
Thank you for visiting!
I am a photographer who lives in Minnesota. I blog about Minnesota, photography, music, food and miscellaneous topics.