Drawing with pastels on the Desert Lab grounds

En Plein Air

Plein air class discussion with color wheel.
Analyzing color harmonies with a color wheel in the Desert Lab class room.

Excuse the French. It means painting outdoors. Not only does it sound so much better in French, if you can pronounce it (I can’t), but it refers back to the French impressionist and landscape painters in mid-19th century who made this a major practice and coined the term. Painting outdoors rather than inside their studios creates the sense of color, space and light that defines the work done in that period, a fact we often forget when viewing them in a gallery or indoors in an art book.

These photos are of Meredith Milstead’s open air drawing class, taught through The Drawing Studio in downtown Tucson. The workshop meets in different locations to draw and paint outside, on site. Last Sunday morning they met on Tumamoc. I watched the discussion of work from the previous excursion; Tohono Chul Park. I could see the difference a place makes.

The work done on Tumamoc has a different character, wild and expanded compared to that done in the botanical garden during the previous session. The Tumamoc work was landscapes. At Tohono Chul, people focused more on individual plants and close-ups.

There was more discussion about dealing with wide and vast open spaces. The sky became a major element–how to deal with it. The sky last Sunday was as it usually is, blank featureless blue. Not a problem for me. One solution offered was to paint in a cloud. Meredith noted that if you observe carefully, there is a subtle gradation from darker blue at the zenith to a lighter blue closer to the horizon. I’ll add that the lighter blue near the horizon is also a bit warmer blue, more of a cyan, than the more purplish blue you see looking straight up. Try it for yourself, it’s also good exercise for your neck.

Drawing with pastels on the Desert Lab grounds
Drawing with pastels on the Desert Lab grounds
Sighting with a pencil to measure proportions
Sighting with a pencil to measure proportions.
Meredith's pastel sketch
Meredith's pastel sketch
Final discussion and critique on the Desert Lab patio.
Final discussion and critique on the Desert Lab patio.

 

 

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