Does anyone paint 'en plein air' these days? This wonderful, now quite elderly artist, Meg Stevens, who lives and paints not far from where I live, certainly does! Not shown here are her snow paintings but she has said on the subject of painting outdoors -
“Every picture is a fight. It wouldn’t be worth doing, I suppose, if it weren’t. One suffers cold, heat, stiff neck, tennis elbow. Brolly springs a leak, blows away. Easel collapses. Seed’s in one’s socks and prickles in one’s pullover! I can’t decide if it’s me fighting to find how to say it or the picture fighting to get itself said. That they do get themselves somehow said is not a tribute to my skill, but to the beauty which,in spite of all that we do to our environment,insists on breaking out wherever it finds the smallest chance”.
I used to go forth with my sketchbooks and paints before the advent of the digital camera. I produced mainly thumbnail sketches but sometimes the full works!
Last month Carole Barkett posted some photos of deer on her Country Mouse Studio blog, when they were tame enough to come right into a built-up area. And it reminded me that there are hazards in painting outdoors; not just the wind that blows the paper about or the spots of rain causing 'interesting' effects or even the biting cold that turns your fingers numb. (Yes, you've guessed it, I love the colours of the winter landscape so much of my sketching was done in less than favorable weather conditions.)
All those hazaards I have coped with and I've put up with the grumbles of my family as they stamped about trying to keep warm while I finished my sketches. What really put me off forever was something a bit more unusual!
I was in Knowle Park, in Sevenoaks, a lovely area surrounding Knowle House, where, if you're very lucky, you may just catch a glimpse of the deer for which the park is famous. It was nearly 40 years ago and of course, it was winter. I decided on a view that I wanted to sketch and it involved perching quite precariously on a steep grassy bank overlooking one of the avenues of trees.
Totally absorbed in my painting, it was a while before I noticed a shuffling, rummaging sound and when I eventually looked round to see what it was, I almost froze in terror. Several large deer, complete with antlers, had silently crept down the bank from above me and were rummaging enthusiastically in my bag of watercolours! I'm not sure which frightened me most, the apparently huge deer looming over me or the fear that they would eat my expensive tubes of paint!
Somehow I managed to gather up my things and 'escape' - though I'm sure they wouldn't really have done me any harm. I've dug out and photographed the watercolour painting that eventually resulted from that afternoon's sketching:
Notice that it doesn't include any deer! Whereas Carole has made the most of her close encounter and created some lovely products for sale through Zazzle: here are my personal favourites -
Happy outdoor sketching to those who are brave enough - and watch out for the deer!