The Best of Both Worlds

Inside and out

Louise Bougourd loves to paint en plein air but only as far as the climate will allow

Materials

Surface

  • Fabriano Artistico Watercolour Paper  140lb NOT

Schminke Watercolours:

  • Translucent Orange

Plus:

  • Cling film
  • Table salt

SAA Watercolours:

  • Tropical Phthalo Blue
  • Burnt Sienna
  • French Ultramarine

Windsor & Newton:

  • Cadmium Red Light
  • Light Red

There is nothing I like more than getting outside to paint on location. However, we live in Britain and I don't like being cold, and am not too impressed with getting wet, I take any opportunity to rush to the nearest café or pub for warmth and, of course, tea and cake. I have learned to make the most of being outside for some of the time; making colour notes and sketches, taking photographs and even starting a painting in situ. Later I continue with the pure joy and comfort of painting in my studio. I have spent years battling with the elements feeling that I really must paint en plein air to develop as an artist. But I have realised that it is still possible to paint with a sense of the great outdoors, by gathering information from a scene that has captured your attention and imagination, without having to struggle with weather of all types, insects, and wellmeaning people asking “are you painting?” and carrying masses of equipment that you think you just might need. If you haven’t yet discovered that the best of both worlds works for you, why not begin your own painting on location gaining a sense of the actual place. Then with the luxury of time and your imagination and the comfort of your home/studio, combine reality with your imagination. You will, of course, have all of your favourite equipment to hand – what could be better?

On Location at Cadgwith

Whilst tutoring on a recent painting holiday in Cornwall I made the colour sketch (Fig 1) on location at Cadgwith.

The sun was warm and bright but the wind was blowing quite enthusiastically so I just made a colour sketch and took a few photos. Back in my studio I used all the information I had collated and enthusiastically painted a larger piece (Fig 2),

with a sense of realism but also having the time to consider how and where I wanted to add my impression to the scene (fig 3).

I used a small amount of salt to create texture in the foreground coupled with controlled spattering. Living near Dartmoor offers me endless opportunities to gather inspiration, but it is often very cold and far too windy to keep my easel upright (it’s also terrible for my hair!). I am not put off however, and relentlessly attempt to start a painting even if I am hanging onto the board whilst applying large washes in an attempt to capture the mood and atmosphere. I frequently use one colour/monotone for speed to interpret what I see in terms of composition, tonal values, and a general feel for the scene that has captured my imagination. I also take many photographs, (the beauty of digital cameras), and make a few notes on the side of my paper if I need to remember a particular aspect that I want to add in the final painting. All of these help me to either complete the painting in the studio or use the material to inspire a fresh painting.

Dartmoor, near Hound Tor

This is the beginning of a painting I started on Dartmoor (Fig 4).

We had visited Hound Tor but the wind was vigorous to say the least so a walk was enjoyed but no painting. However, as I began to drive away I spotted a group of trees with fabulous limbs reaching gracefully above a rugged granite dry-stone wall, and the colours and texture caught my imagination immediately. Even though it was extremely cold I found a spot that was quite sheltered from the wind and I was able to get the basics of the scene onto paper using a graphite pencil and paint. I took many photos to ensure I had all the information I needed to complete the work (Figs 5 and 6).

On returning home I was able to evaluate and ponder how I was going to proceed. It is easy to see that I have had time to consider where to use tone and texture. I wanted to keep the rugged moorland feel of the scene but also put my slant on it. I so love using strong colour and texture - I am constantly surprised by the depth of colour you can achieve with watercolour as well as the interesting marks you can create using salt and cling film. I used cling film to create textural marks in the wall and bank – something I would have struggled with on location as it would have blown off. I sprinkled a small amount of salt into the foreground and in a controlled manner dribbled on loose paint to help suggest the interesting surface of the foreground. My final touches were a few restrained spatters of Indian Yellow and Scarlet Lake. I used a rigger for the thinner branches plus the edge a piece of torn watercolour paper lightly dipped in paint to create more irregular shapes and thickness. I have even used a twig itself dipped in colour to create a less controlled mark, which can look more realistic. It’s a good idea to step back every now and then and assess your painting – at times in this painting I felt I was beginning to fiddle too much so I stopped and went back to it later. Tip: take a photo of your work whenever you stop to asses it - it is amazing how a photograph enables you to become detached and more able to analyse your progress. It's an awful lot to ask of yourself to complete a painting outside, and many artists add finishing touches to their work once they have returned to the studio so why can’t we? Why not follow my example and get the best of both worlds.

To enjoy more paintings by Louise visit www.louise-bougourd.co.uk