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Plein Air Painting

Updated: Apr 24, 2021

I have recently started painting in the city again and I have become quite an advocate (at least in my own mind) of the benefits of painting/drawing/even just observing a landscape on site. One evening I went to go paint on Signal Hill (which is quite an iconic view spot and tourist destination in Cape Town). Cape Town is famous (or shall I say infamous depending on your point of view) for its four seasons in one day weather. This particular day removed my skepticism of the aforementioned statement.

When starting a Plein Air artwork one has to first decide on your point of placement. Factors to consider here are the amount of wind and other elements and how they could potentially affect your duress in relation to them. On this particular evening on Signal Hill the light was beautiful (one of the many joys of Spring in this city) and the weather seemed pleasant enough. I made myself comfortable in looking toward Devil's Peak and started my painting. To my great horror however the clouds started to rapidly scurry over the mountain which completely changed my composition and light/shadow that I was trying to capture. To add to my slight hysteria I had an audience of joggers and walkers who were curious as to what I was doing. I had to please explain to them why my painting looked nothing like what they were seeing in front of them!!

That said though, the resulting painting did manage to capture something of the light and the atmosphere of the experience. This is why I enjoy the Plein air painting process-it facilitates a direct experience and response to the landscape one is focusing on, an experience which is captured and relayed in the resultant product. I also like the idea of starting and finishing a painting in one sitting. It is certainly a challenging process, but a rewarding one nonetheless!

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