“When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you, a tree, a house, a field or whatever. Merely think here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape.”
― Claude Monet
Impressionist paintings have always fascinated me! My family knows exactly where to look for me if we get separated in an art museum, because I will inevitably be drawn to the enchanted scenes of Monet, Degas, Cassatt, and Renoir, to admire them one more time before I leave (Which is about 10 minutes before closing time, because I don’t want to hear the announcement, “the museum is now closed.” It makes me sad…☹).
Anyway! This past month I had an experience that helped me get further into the heads of my impressionist idols! I was very lucky to study with Truman Hosner for 3 days at the beautiful Franciscan Life Process Center Art School in Lowell. If you haven’t been to this place before, please check it out! I have attended 2 workshops there in the past couple years, and they were both worth the hour drive from Lansing! The property is so beautiful, the people are incredibly nice and there are artists who visit from all over the country to teach here, working in a variety of mediums.
But I was there this time to learn from Truman. You can follow this link to check out his work and why I was so excited to study with him. He paints everything outdoors, and His class was designed to teach us the effects of light and the practicalities of painting outside. I was excited about attending this workshop because my experience with painting outside was fairly limited. I had not done much beyond sketching and painting some of my favorite garden corners.
The first day started with a small hike to a hillside overlooking a treelined field. We all gathered around and watched as Truman began to show us how he approaches a scene. I soon realized that he was explaining the same “quick impression” approach to light and color that I admire in those scenes from Monet, Degas, Cassat, and Renoir. And I began to see how being present in the environment you are trying to portray makes a lot of difference in the feeling of the piece.
Honestly, I was laughing at myself by the second day. It was getting to hard to keep up! We would start the day at one site, then--after only a couple of hours—Truman had us pack our bags and caravan to a new site, where we would set up our easels and start a new piece. It was a totally new experience for me and I was quite exhausted by the 3rd day. Back home, I went over my notes and reflected on the experience. It was a whole different approach to taking in a scene. Rather than walking around, taking a picture of each interesting view, and hurrying back to the studio, we lingered in one spot. We sat and soaked in the scene, watching the colors, light, and details, in ways that I would not have captured in a picture. I gleaned so many details from those two hours focusing on one space! These in-the-moment experiences made the location sing to me in a whole new way. There are wonderful moments, from the bald eagle gliding down the river, to the sudden scent of a lilac bush, to the ripples of light on the water as the wind brushes the surface. Though I could have done without the sunburn on my neck, the goose poop covering the only spot with the view I wanted, and especially the man crunching on an apple behind me as he watched me paint! But, what I saw in my paintings at the end of the day made these difficulties worthwhile, and I can’t wait for more.
So, armed with this new inspiration from Truman, I plan to venture into nature and continue practicing my skills (at my own pace this time!). There will be a few local people joining me when they can. We would love to include anyone who’s interested in occasionally painting outdoors with us, and in supporting each other in this attempt to capture the light and spirit of our world.
If you think you might be interested please contact me. I can add you to our email list of plein air enthusiasts and keep you informed about where and when we will be meeting. If you are available we would love to have you join us from time to time. There is absolutely no pressure! When you are available to come, you can come, if you can’t don’t worry.
Peace and happy painting to you all!!