Last week Plein-air Painting in Florence, Italy.

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Me painting outdoors in Fiesole with curious little onlookers!

As my study abroad program winds down, I can’t believe its been exactly 7 weeks that I’ve been here in Italy. I’m truly grateful for this experience of being able to experience living and studying abroad for something that I love to do. It’s been “eye opening” and a whole lot of connecting back to my heart center. Painting, especially with oil paints has always intimidated me. And when I was in my early 20s I often found myself going back and forth, my patience was always rocked with oil painting. I didn’t have enough patience with myself back then, but now I have a deeper love and appreciation for painting.

After doing at least two paintings a day, four days a week for the last seven weeks has incredibly improved my technique and understanding of plein-air painting. Plein-air painting requires a person to think on their feet and improvise, composing a scene into a small 9×12 or 5×7 quick study allows the artist to narrow in and focus on the beauty of the environment, in regards to color temperature, weather climate, and composition. The most important thing with Plein-air painting is to do quick studies so you can relate what you see and the mood has to come across quickly, we aren’t painting masterpieces or finished work. From the outside studies you can go back to your studio environment and expand upon it to either make a larger and more finished painting from it.

Plein-air painting allows the “seer” to adjust to the environment and scenery, a moment that you feel present in the here and now. 

The impressionists started plein-air painting when tubes of paint were invented and it was easier to transport the paints for use outside. Monet was said to have gotten up at 5 am every morning to paint outside and as the light changed in the morning, he would do 2 or 3 all before noon.  The light tends to change every 2 hours and after noon or mid-day you have to stop because that’s when the light is the brightest and its unbearable to paint outdoors! It’s recommended to paint in the early morning to noon or 1 pm. Or pick up again when the light changes at sunset when there is dramatic lighting. The goal of plein-air painting is to pick a scene that looks like a painting, something simple is beautiful. We’re not painting for exactness. We also have to ask ourselves, what are we inspired by to paint? And the colors that we mix should convey the mood– we’re not always going to come out with the same color of the sky or the building that we are painting in, but to express it in a way that the viewer understands what we are trying to convey.

I am truly happy that I got to experience taking this class in the heart of Florence, it was a magical moment in my life. I have changed from what I’ve learned out here both academically and also learning about the rich history of the Italian people. I really did step outside of myself from being a quiet introvert in the comfort of my own home in NYC to really immersing myself in the culture and language of a different country. I really enjoyed myself out here and had the time of my life! You only live once, make it count. La Dolce Vita.

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Before I got a dark tan!

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