Category Archives: On location

Summer plein air painting

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Two of my favorite things to do are create art and be in the great outdoors. In the summertime, I try to combine these by painting outside, known as “painting en plein air”.

Every summer in August, there is a plein air painting festival in the Haliburton Highlands, a district in the Canadian Shield about a three hour drive north-east of Toronto, where I live.

This year, my husband and I rented cottages in a couple of locations for two weeks before this event and I painted outside almost every day, which was really joyous and relaxing. You can’t really think about anything else while you are painting, so it takes you completely out of your head.

For the actual festival, which happens over three days, farmers and landowners in the rural area let artists come onto their private land to paint. Meeting the other artists is usually interesting too, although I freely confess that we are a unique segment of society for the most part!  Case in point — I bumped into a painting friend in the grocery store, and we stood in front of the cheese counter discussing composition principles for half an hour.

The images in the gallery called “Come into the Forest” are all plein air paintings. Most would have been painted over 3 – 4 hours, with occasional stops for coffee, sunscreen or bug spray! Some take a bit longer. This year was very dry, so I didn’t have to cope with any sudden rain storms.

The changes in light and shadow over a few hours are one of the challenges of outdoor painting, to say nothing of the overwhelming complexity of the view. You have to take away everything that is not necessary until you are left with a story that makes sense.

The painting shown here – The Old Maple – was painted on the last day of the festival in the afternoon, on a property called Brigadoon.