Tag Archives: plein air

Creative Camping

IMG_9991 (1)Having just participated in an art workshop for 3 days, it was so filled with adventure that I have come away comparing it to what kids might feel like when they go away to camp.  The busyness of preparation with getting supplies together, the trepidation of feelings, “Am I going to succeed at new tasks?”, and the exhilaration of “I am having fun!”  The fun, in addition to the satisfaction of learning something new, comes from being with other artists who encourage one another, give grace at the stumbles, tell funny jokes and some dumb ones, too, and express gratitude at the good days and the fact that we get to do what we do.   The other fabulous feeling comes from admiration that another human being can do something unique and to such a high degree of competency that it fills me with inspiration and a grateful heart for being shown the way.  Charlie Hunter, who has developed a style of his own, was so willing and generous to share his process and help us experience his way of working that I came away with faith that I will continue to find my bliss.  I was inspired and feel that I can paint and explore processes in any way that I want, and that I, too, will find my own mountaintop.  This is a good life.  I am grateful.

Painting en plein air is not for everyone.  There are challenges. First, logistics.  I am my mother’s child, and I want to have my needs met at any given time.  This means that I carry a lot of supplies – a rolling cart and usually another bag that holds the gadgets.  I want my favorite brushes, stool, umbrella (sun protection), water device, the right canvas, sketchpad, viewer, pencils, palette paper, trashcan, easel, and tripod, camera for photographing scenes and birds, hat, sunscreen, bug spray, beverages, snack, and now there are new gadgets, oh, but they are such fun, mark making, tools.

The joy of getting away and focussing on art is such a gift that it makes the logistics part bearable. I’ve had the pleasure of taking a class with Charlie Hunter through The Chestnut Group this week.  It was different than anything else so far, and frankly, I didn’t know that I would even like painting in this monochromatic, tonal style.  Let me tell you, it has drawn me in like a moth to the flame.

If you have ever wanted to try painting, or if you already paint and you are looking for a community of artists, consider us,  The Chestnut Group.  We will encourage you and share what’s been shared with us.

I will continue to negotiate the cold, heat, humidity, sun, weather threats, bugs, long distances to restroom facilities, logistics and unknowns.  The payoff is so worth it.  Painting and birding, two of my favorite pastimes, are afforded in one outing.  I am fortunate.

Renee Bates -lowest res SB 7 copy 3

About Renee Bates

Renee is an artist focused on growing a newfound ability to express herself through oil painting, leaving her role as executive director of the non-profit, Greenways for Nashville, in 2015. Renee is inspired by nature and enjoys hiking, birding, and the garden. To see what she’s working on, visit her website: www.reneebatesartist.com.  She contributes to HerSavvy, a blog featuring writings from a group of well-informed women wishing to share their support and experience with others. Married to David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, enjoying flora and fauna is a family affair.
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Artist Tech

Renee's Tomatoes

Spineless? Never!, 8” x 10” oil, © Renée Bates

As a painter, I use technology for capturing the light, or a moment in time.  I work as a plein air and studio painter.  Plein air is a term defined as pertaining to a manner or style of painting developed chiefly in France in the mid-19th century, characterized by the representation of the luminous effects of natural light and atmosphere as contrasted with the artificial light and absence of the sense of air or atmosphere associated with paintings produced in the studio.  Plein air can also be defined as designating a painting executed out of doors and representing a direct response to the scene or subject in front of the artist.  Lastly, a plein air painting is defined as having the qualities of air and natural light.

The business of “chasing the light,” as the sun moves across a scene, can make an artist crazy or in the least, make for a poor painting.  The “values,” or light and dark bits, are what make the thing read, even more than the color.  If you cannot capture it all quickly, you will lay out a painting, work it for a bit, then take a photograph and finish in the studio.  Technology is most helpful here.  The artist of former centuries had to work fast, or they had photographic memories.

I am probably most grateful for cell phones with quality cameras. A photography instructor recently said, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”  True. I regularly capture wildlife shots and beautiful horticulture with my phone camera. While it doesn’t get great detail at far distances, it does afford me many action shots.

When setting up plein air, I will often look through the lens at a scene for scale or, take a photograph and use the cropping tool to decide how I want to lay it out on canvas.  Back at the studio, with Photoshop and similar software, I will sometimes punch up the color in an image, or blur it for a more impressionistic effect.  I will work from a print or use the computer monitor to view as my source. I like to blow up flowers with the cropping software to achieve an abstract view.

When a painting is nearly there, I will take a photograph to see how well I have communicated with the lights and darks, and I’ll always find areas that need tweaking.

Using photos to electronically market on websites and social media is current practice for most artists.  The technology with these platforms has improved dramatically in the last couple of years.  I created a website in just eight hours.  I look forward to seeing how much better technology will be in five years.

About Renee Bates

Renee is an artist focused on growing a newfound ability to express herself through oil painting, recently leaving her role as executive director of the non-profit Greenways for Nashville to pursue art and product development.  Renee likes being in nature, hiking, birding, and working in the garden. Married to David Bates of Bates Nursery and Garden Center, a 3rd generation business begun in 1932. Renee admires the fact that it was begun by a savvy woman, Bessie Bates.  Renee’s art may be enjoyed from her website or followed on Facebook.

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