There is nothing quiet like working from real life. Having a tactile relationship with your subject matter and experiencing it with all of your senses creates an intimacy that leads to heightened sensitivity. This is especially true for the landscape painter. The quality of natural light is ever changing and the diversity of locale stimulating, leading to unlimited painting possibilities.
Historically, the advent of portable painting supplies facilitated the en plein air movement. Before that, painters sketched and worked in studio, relying on memory and reference material. Portrait and still life paintings were the works of prominence. Most landscapes were formulated and merely provided backdrop. As artists began to drag their equipment out on location, landscape painting took on a whole new aesthetic and popularity. Certain locations became popular, often because of the endorsement of an influential master painter of the time. Artist colonies sprang up around these locations and many are still popular today. A few examples in the United States are: Carmel and Laguna Beach, in California; Santa Fe and Taos in New Mexico; Bucks County, Pennsylvania; Old Lyme, Connecticut; Woodstock, New York; Rockport, Massachusetts.
Recently, I was fortunate to instruct in one of the historically famous east coast locations artists often speak of: Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It was easy to discover why this special area has been a draw to painters beginning since the turn of the last century: It is the quality of the light. I know that this sounds cliché and is often referenced as the special quality in a number of locations, but it truly applies to the Cape. Maybe it is its geographic location, surrounded by the Atlantic on one side and Cape Cod Bay on the other, or its moisture laden air, lush vegetation, and charming colonial architecture. Whatever it is, it is worth visiting to paint. A heart-felt thank you to the Pastel Painters Society of Cape Cod for the invitation. It is an experience I will not soon forget.
Since there are many locations that qualify as “special” and not all of them well-known, feel free to post a comment here that shares a bit of information about a painting location that is special to you.
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