To “Studio” or not to “Studio”–Most artists I know get asked “where do you paint? When are you the most creative? Do you have a studio? Do you paint from photos, life or both?” For me, the answers to these questions is usually the same—Anywhere, anytime, and yes, yes, yes and yes. Haha.
In general, I personally really enjoy quiet studio time. I can control my environment—the light, the music, the stimulus, etc. and focus forward. Whether I am creating from an idea, memory, photos or a small still life– it’s all good.
Location painting, or Plein Air as it is referred to, has it’s challenges. For one thing, if you are in a busy location, you will encounter many individuals, some quiet and curious and others who just want to chat. Some can be mean and critical-and when you are set up and are surrounded by your supplies, it is hard to just walk away. If you can paint or draw while making conversation, you are indeed blessed! I tend to make mistakes as soon as my focus turns to words instead of images.
You also have to work fast while staying on task. Once in place, you must try to capture your composition quickly– the light, shadows and essence of your view while you can see it. The light can change so quickly while on sight—clouds, weather, even just the time of day can all affect your vision. The weather can especially add its own element of challenges. If it a busy location, say a city sidewalk or even a crowded beach or park, it can be hard to move about—sometimes people will bump into you—especially people on their phones not expecting to encounter a fixed obstacle in their path. You also have to keep an eye on your belongings unless they are under your feet or locked securely away somewhere. Not everyone respects what you are doing and they will take advantage if that is their objective.
And of course, these are just some issues you will encounter and have to sort out once you are on location. First you have to get there and haul all of your materials with you. If you are using a sketch pad and pencils or pastels, it’s not too bad at all. When you are bringing a canvas or board, paints, mediums, brushes, an easel, paper towels and bags, along with your general personal debris, you can start to feel like you need a porter.
Doing Plein Air with others, especially friends, can be a blast! It can sometimes be a distraction or limit your motivation to get a lot of work done, but the fun factor usually increases exponentially. If you are with supportive friends, they can be instrumental in helping when you get stuck, make you check out other angles or compositions and cheer you on when you got it right!
Many times, Plein Air can be a great way to gain access to otherwise off limits properties, like private gardens and estates. People enjoy watching someone paint on or in their property. It can also lead to new clients.
I personally know of several private art teachers who arrange entire trips around the experience and part of what makes it an easy sell is the access to some beautiful and rarely seen locations. It allows for a mix of travel, creativity and just is a wonderful way to see and experience the world. Not a bad combination at all!
I can’t say when I have joined in on some Plein Air locale excursions that I have gotten my best work done, or even accomplished much in terms of productivity. But I have learned something every single time. Like anything, it takes some practice to get comfortable with the process. Sometimes I don’t get much more done than some sketches, reference photos taken and color samples down, before I wrap up. Other times, I get busy from the moment I set up until it’s time to leave. But I always find inspiration.
So getting out there and sharing what you do can be positive on many levels.
Regardless, and just speaking for myself, I always welcome the quiet of my own work space. I can focus, shut out that big, beautiful world and get some work done. It’s all interwoven. It’s all a process; but an individual one. There is no right or wrong way to get it accomplished. The important thing is that YOU do it in the best way that works for you!. However, you make that happen, as Nike has been saying for over 25 years, “Just do it”. And have fun in the process!