13 Jul

Stretching the Creative Muscle

People often ask how I create my paintings.  Usually I take dozens of photos to soak up a feeling for a place and help me notice details.  Then I work from multiple photos when I'm back in my studio, not copying one, but trying to remember and to show how it felt to be there.  Every once in a while, though, it seems important to get out of my comfort zone, stretch my creative muscle, and try another approach.  So the other day I went painting with a friend "en plein air."

The French term simply means we were painting outside, using the scenery in front of us.  While many artists love it, I don't.  My idea of fun is not being subject to sunburn, bug bites, lack of restrooms and passers-by commenting how their kids like to draw with chalk.  (My thought bubble: "It's NOT chalk! These soft pastels I'm painting with are compressed sticks of pure, vibrant pigments, with no chalk in them."  My actual reply: "Really?  It's nice they enjoy making art.")

Anyhow, we were en plein air.  I'm lucky enough to have a studio near the water with gorgeous scenery readily available, so the real challenge was focus.  It's much easier for me to compose a painting with the camera lens than when looking at a 180+ degree panorama – with boats sailing by!  I did make a good start on a couple of paintings, including this one of Bluff Point State Park.  As you can see in this photo from my phone, it still needs work, but I was happy with the rocks and the people on the far shore.



  1. What? Trouble with focus? Not us — oh look! a bird! I wonder how its colors would look in this scene. Maybe if I… — nope, not us! 

    Terrific blog and new website, Beth. I'll be reading.

  2. I love your new website!  Your format really shows off the incredible color and light of your pastels.  En plein air isn't for me either.  I'd rather stretch my muscles in yoga!!  haha.



  3. Beth, you really captured the vibrancy of the scene!  I love the energy that can be seen in a work early in the process, and I think that the speed and looseness required in plein air can really help that energy shine through!  Too bad about the bug bites, though! 😉

  4. Good Early Morn Beth,

    Congratulations on your new website and blog!  Wow, I was so surprised that you were willing and actually took another stab at en plein air painting after learning your view of the process last year of which you have expressed as welll in this blog.  Good for you to take a stretch.   Sounds like you found the experience interesting, but still not your preference. You are a true adventurer!.  

    All the Best, Cathy

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