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Sunday, January 10, 2010
Painting "en plein air" means painting outdoors and experiencing the sounds, the smells, the surroundings, the atmosphere of the scene. But at 4 degrees Fahrenheit on this Christmas day in North Dakota a couple of years ago, I just had to give up the direct experience and paint from the comfort and warmth of this bay window at the River Bend Ranch Bed & Breakfast, where we were staying.
The gray, cold morning reduced everything to just a few colors, and I tried to paint the snow-covered landscape quickly and simply. You can see on the photo how I improvised an easel with a chair on the ledge of the bay window. The completed study (image shown below) sold the same day.
Later, back in the studio at home, I painted a second version (shown here at the top), based on my photo of the on-site sketch. Looking back at both images, I can see that the on-site study was more faithful to the scenery and conditions, even though I was not standing in the snow. I guess that still there is nothing like being there, even if you are being protected by double-pane glass. And if you can't be outdoors, a bay window might be the best next thing.