Plein Air Supplies for a Heavenly Outdoor Painting Experience
There’s something about the Hudson River Valley that has inspired artists for more than 100 years. Since the origins of the Hudson River School in the mid-1800s, the region has attracted artists, activists and spiritual seekers.
Artist Garin Baker sees himself as a part of that great tradition. “I feel that I’m carrying a torch, that I’m continuing a great artistic theology,” he says. This concept hinges not only on geographic location and style but also on the activism inherent in painting nature.
According to Baker, “The Hudson River painters were some of the first environmental stewards of the Hudson River Valley.”
These artists were painting the valley both to exalt the divinity they saw in nature and to bring attention to the fragility of the ecosystem in the region. They were responding not just to the beauty of the land but also to the danger it faced at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
With his home and art studio minutes away from the Hudson River, Baker is able to experience views that have hardly changed in the past 100 years. “There’s very little in my opinion that compares to the engagement and transcendence of this experience,” says Baker.
“Being in one spot for a few hours and capturing the truth and beauty of a moment is personally and creatively rewarding. If my last days are spent pursuing this calling, I’ll feel assured my time here was well spent.”
In the following demonstration, Baker offers insights on his plein air supplies, provided by Raymar and Open Box M, how best to capture a moment and talks about the materials and equipment that make it possible.
I arrive at the Hudson River with my 12 x 24-inch Raymar panels and two Open Box M shoulder bags. The bags come with a setup kit and also hold all my other supplies, including my tripod.
Pochade Box Mount
The quick release connector on my tripod makes attaching my Open Box M pochade box quick and easy.
I arrange my Michael Harding paints in a light-to-dark and warm-to-cool arrangement. I’ve had this particular Open Box M pochade box for more than 20 years, and I’ve found there’s nothing better than a honed-wood surface for mixing. I clip my paint thinner cups on the Open Box M extension, where I also set my palette knife and cotton rags.
Attaching the Panel
I attach my Raymar 12 x 24-inch panel using the spring-loaded extension arms on the Open Box M.
My surface is a Raymar C13DP panel. Its double oil-primed linen surface, as well as Raymar’s new quadruple-primed linen surface, receives the paint beautifully, letting me build up layers or grab that perfect alla prima stroke.
In this particular situation, I’m after the tonal quality of the moment and time of day. Using blues, reds, crimsons and magentas with a touch of brown and black to avoid a too richly colored underpainting, I begin at the top and wash the colors with paint thinner to create an organic and abstract look.
I take my cues from nature and allow gravity to wash the colors in from top to bottom. This creates harmony with the atmosphere of the landscape.
The toned surface becomes relatively dry. Since the paint thinner has evaporated, leaving the pigment behind, I use the same thinned-out colors already on my palette to brush in the big shapes.
I’m careful not to make things too symmetrical. I also place my focal point. With a rag and a dab of thinner, I pull out lighter areas along the horizon line to help stage the composition.
I keep things simple — not drawing too much and allowing abstract and graphic qualities to set the stage. The details will come later. By keeping things loose, I allow the painting to hold a dialogue with nature. My creative sensibilities begin to expand and develop.
I start staging my tonal and color variations with a big brush. This enables me to use value (dark to light) and color (warm or cool) to create the illusion of depth and atmosphere.
I keep everything similar in relationship to color harmony, but I also make sure I capture the clear distinction of what’s in the light and what’s in the shadows, as seen in the cool, gray shades of the mountains to the right versus the warmer colors of the mountains to the left.
I also begin to establish the color and value of the sky in relationship to the distant mountains. This area of water reflects the sky and helps establish an illusionary depth.
I block in the blue areas of the sky, leaving previously toned areas open for the clouds. I also mass in the large areas of the mountains and the water.
To create the reﬂective quality in the water, I use the same and slightly darker blues as I used in the sky. Notice the slight indication in the water of warm, colored reﬂections of clouds I have yet to add.
On the mountain to the right I add a shaft of warm color in the lower section, indicating the light ﬁltering in from right to left, with the strongest and brightest areas to the left.
The mountains on the left of the composition receive much brighter reds, oranges and yellows to indicate the strong, setting sunlight they’re facing.
The sunlight is low in the sky. Warm pinks and light yellows are clearly visible. I add the brightly lit areas of the clouds and reﬂective suggestions in the water below them. The beneﬁt of painting the same spot many times is that you can anticipate the light and colors to come.
The clouds and sky have taken shape, and I add some stronger contrasts and reﬂections to the water. The sunlit mountains to the left now have that richly colored impact I was hoping for, contrasted by some added shadows from the mountain in the shade on the right.
As the light of the day fades to dusk, the rising moon appears. I don’t waste the opportunity to add it to the upper-left section of my composition.
Back in my studio I make some minor tweaks. If I overwork this painting, I might stray from my initial intentions and lose the light I was trying to capture. I strive to keep the freshness and immediacy.
Article written by Mike Allen. A version of this story appeared in Artists Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Meet the Sponsors of ‘Plein Air Eden’
Open Box M helps to simplify the artist’s plein air experience by producing quality, lightweight and portable plein air easels and equipment. Since 1989, our mission has been to offer the most reliable solution to artists who love to adventure and paint outdoors. Our belief in handmade quality and a lifetime of satisfaction to our customers has enriched the lives of many artists from all around the world for almost 30 years. Proudly made in the U.S.A. Visit our website for more information.
**Between now and September 30, 2018, Open Box M is offering 10% off all order totals (not including shipping and handling) when you use coupon code: ARTISTSMAG.**
At Raymar our mission and our passion are the same – to source the finest quality materials to create painting panels for your artwork. Our second generation family business founded in 1998 is dedicated to the craft of fine art. It is our privilege to partner with you and supply your painting needs. We hope our exceptional panels give you confidence in your materials and ultimately inspire your artistry. Lasting art lives on Raymar. Visit our website for further details.