Plein Air Challenge

Take a limitation and turn it into an opportunity.

Take an opportunity and turn it into an adventure.

I have avoided Plein Air artistic ventures all my life; cannot do it, someone might come and watch me possibly messing up. It would be too uncomfortable in the heat, cold, windy etc. etc.  and so many other reasons…until now. At this age the grey matter must be oiled with fresh challenges to keep it rolling, so I joined a Melbourne Meetup’s group ‘Sketch Melbourne en Plein Air’ and off I went. I have mostly gone on my own to things and this was no different. Didn’t know anyone and a big challenge ahead of me so I was nervous on all levels.

We met at the cafe for coffee/tea  at a chosen place which was a very old convent that  has become a centre for arts, culture and learning with, a childrens farm and a million places for inspiration to sketch paint, photograph or just relax and enjoy the surroundings. After introductions we were off to our own places of interest. I hid in a tiny rotunda structure in a back corner of the convent, hopefully away from the throng of people enjoying a sunny day.

I took along watercolour pencils and mixed media bits and bobs.  I looked at the piece of watercolour paper I had chosen  with some pieces of text from an old Thesaurus glued to it and whilst it was quite small it looked enormous so I immediately tore it at an angle and felt much better…not a lot of space to cover.

Using watercolour pencils and a fantastic refillable brush. I had bought for this purpose and it was brilliant. The cylinder for the water is not that big and I had visions of refilling it quite a few times but it lasted the length of the piece…mind you…my piece after it’s ripping wasn’t very big 🙂

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Getting into ‘the zone’ was difficult, I found there was too much information for me to settle down. My eyes were flitting all over the place. Finally I chose to just sketch one of the columns to just at least start; I couldn’t plan a scene. I enjoyed that so did another column. A couple of children milled around me asking questions so I was pleased to take a breather and have a chat then another person came and wanted to sketch the little rotunda I was sitting in so I happily scooted off under a tree near the church. What do I do now? I thought, two columns and that’s it? can’t go back for lunch and share two columns…maybe I could sneak home and they won’t remember I was ever there? Come on I said to myself get a grip! So I started on a random window (typical me…random is my name). In my stash of bits and bobs I knew I had a piece of carpet I had printed out on calico so put that in as a window. That was the end of my ‘Plein Air’ sketching as such. What was left of the  hour was ‘doodling, balancing out colour and shapes;  bit of this and that. I just got carried away in my delicious little world of make believe.

Got back to the group where we shared our work…mmm…amazing sketches by people, some did three or four. Realistic most of them, wonderful array of talent. I tentatively flashed mine then ran home…commonly phrased…chickened out!

Looking at my piece in the safety of home gave me exciting ideas. Also had ideas about not ever, ever going back to a sketching group but something in me stirred. Because of going I had a fresh idea. I did enjoy aspects of it, even more so in the moments I forgot my nerves and feelings of inadequacy. That afternoon and the next day I played with my little piece. Looked up the history of the convent which was sad and felt I needed to write a piece of poetry about it. Found some paper to go in as a background and into the journal I played and played.

I am happy with the piece, I am happy I faced the challenge.

Abbotsford Convent sketching day meetup

I didn’t want to give in so I went again on Tuesday. This time to Williamstown which is a seaside suburb with boats, cafes, beach area, parkland and people. It was such a great day. Met more wonderful sketchers. We enjoyed lunch an lively chatter.

I bombed out completely. Took on far too much…a boat in dry dock with structure and paraphernalia everywhere. The perspective is totally wrong. The boat is sitting IN THE CONCRETE…Oh lordy! A mess but I am stronger in my mind than ever. I had a great day and the people will easily become nice friends and I have already learnt not to tackle anything big at this early stage, not to feel I need to do realistic and have faith in myself when outside. Small steps and maybe, just maybe I will accomplish plein air sketching in my own style.

I considered not posting the disaster but that is not what this post is all about. This post is about challenges, failures that are never really failures. You can always learn something. I didn’t bother finishing this of course as I could see it was just not going to be anything other than a learning curve…a positive one.

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You never know till you give it a go.


9 thoughts on “Plein Air Challenge

  1. You should have more confidence! Those sketches are beautiful and I love how you’ve worked in bits of text and patterns. Sounds like a wonderful experience!

  2. Thank you for your kind comment. I intend to keep challenging myself with this exercise as yes, it was a wonderful experience. I am adamant my lack of confidence outdoors will not beat me. :))

  3. You are wrong! This is wonderful work. You create masterpieces all the time.

    Nice to hear your last comment. I know exactly what you felt. I always start small and walk around it this way and that. Add a little something. Take way a bit here and there, change this, then that and eventually a picture emerges. A story is told. I daresay, I give your ten gold stars for getting OUT of your comfort zone.

    • Thank you Sonja. I guess because I am challenging myself to relax when sketching outside I cannot concentrate as I do at home then I become super critical but I am pleased with the fact I am sticking with it. You have inspired me with you kindness.

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