Summer is over and fall is getting colder. The facts are the facts. Most of us don’t go out to paint when the temperature is below 50o. For some of us there is a narrow band of comfort between 60o and 75o. (You know who you are!)
I have cold weather gear. I walk my dog every day all winter. I just don’t paint outside in that kind of weather. I’ve tried , but it never ends well.
One April I entered the Dublin Area Art League plein air competition. The day’s high was 48o. The sun was shining when I left my house but that was the last I saw of it all day. It’s one thing to be cold and moving , but standing in one place on cold ground is not fun. Frozen feet, frozen brain, lousy painting. That was the worst piece I ever turned in for a competition. The only consolation was a hot cup of soup afterwards.
My friend Marianne is an intrepid plein air painter. She paints in the snow and I asked if I could go with her some time. We decided the temperature needed to be in the 30’s so the paint didn’t gum up. Ideally it would be a day with a little sun. Do you know how many days we have like that in Ohio??? Not many. So one day when we had a light coating of snow, we decided to drive about 40 miles north in hopes of enchanted rural scenes. Alas, the farther we went, the less snow there was. Also alas, my easel had a wonky leg. We found a nice little scene, but it was hard to paint while holding up my easel, keeping blowing snow out of my eyes, and trying to ignore the cold. Not good.
This spring and summer getting outside to paint and socialize made all the other 2020 craziness bearable. I met friends at least once a week. We’d paint for a few hours and then lunch. Once the mornings got cooler in the fall, we flipped the process with lunch first and then painting. That lasted a few weeks.
Now the fall color is waning. The coming weeks will get colder and grayer. Even when you get a warm day, scenes will be bleak. How are we going to cope? With the pandemic we’ll each have to toil away in isolation, touching base mostly online. We may come out of our dens for a walk in the brisk air when we can.
I know I still need to give the brushes a workout or regress in my skills over winter. Here are the options as I see them:
- Use some plein air paintings as studies for studio paintings. Maybe. Not really excited by that idea.
- Paint from photos. I have scads of photos that could be sources for paintings. I need to get better at cropping and editing for better composition. I can see that happening after I spend a copious amount of time choosing a photo.
- Set up still life arrangements to paint from life indoors. Nope. Not happening. Not a fan of still life.
- Study. Copy paintings by the master’s just for practice. Sean Wang taught a class where he had us do that – quick small studies and then one or two larger ones. I might play with that a bit. Couldn’t hurt
- Take an online class. The right kind of class could strengthen skills and be inspiring. I need one with some accountability, not a DIY tutorial.
- Switch to another medium; maybe do some watercolor paintings or colored pencil.
- Go abstract. Take a scene and boil it down to basics. Then switch up the colors or placement of elements. Might be fun.
- Make greeting cards. Geometrics, prints, watercolors, colored pencil, and mixed media all make nice cards. I’m never sure if this is legit creative work or just a cop-out thing to do instead of “real painting.”
- Try to paint portraits. I’ve dabbled with this a bit. The results look human at least, but not necessarily like the person I’m trying to paint.
- Curl up with a blanket and You Tube painting videos. I might accidentally learn something, but chances are better if I’m actually doing something. Not a good option, but very tempting.
The bottom line is to just move some paint around with a goal in mind. No matter what I choose to do this winter, it will never take the place of fresh air, friends and lunch in the park.