Saturday, September 28, 2013

Plein Air Painting with David Linneweh

Dave Linneweh - ISU alum, art pal, and creator of the podcast "Studio Break"( - is perhaps best known for his painted deconstructions of homes, storefronts, and olde-tymey signage, evoking both a literal and figurative pulling-apart of the classic idealism of "1950s americana" (well, that's the point in time where my noggin goes).
But over the last year or so, Dave has been taking road trips to do plein air sessions, directly observing the landscape in an attempt to capture what's in front of him on canvas or board.  He's invited friends along for the ride several times, and for his latest trip, I tagged along.

We met up in Dixon, IL early on Friday, and landed at our first stop - a park that, while only a few blocks from the downtown core, actually felt somewhat remote. 

Dave's setup:

After settling in and working for a few minutes, it was immediately apparent that this was going to be a challenge.  Shortly after my first child was born, I decided to ditch painting with oils in my basement studio, and to switch to acrylics.  As we sat outside under the bright sunlight and amongst a pretty hefty wind, my paint dried far too quickly to do anything worthwhile.  But whatever, you just keep on working and go with it.

Early on at my first spot:

We sat and talked a lot about other challenges in working outdoors like this - less about the wind/drying, the bugs, or the swamp I hilariously decided to set up in, and more about the artistic challenges related to truly seeing what is in front of you.

First off, it's almost comical as to how "sun-blind" you can get while you work on a white canvas.  I'd often look at the scene in front of me after working on the canvas, and values of areas in front of me would seem "off."  And since both of us are mostly studio workers, neither of us are well adept at this type of a direct observation activity.  It's something you partake in during formal schooling, but it's an area hardly anyone sticks to, as people move into more contemporary media, or more "avante-garde" modes of abstraction.  We had art-nerdish discussions about local color vs observed color, specifically about what we were truly seeing in terms of hue and value on the water.  It was difficult to sit and accurately portray what your eyes saw, and easy to cop out of that mode of working and fall back into what you were more comfortable with, or "old habits."

In other words, it kind of kicked my ass.  But it was well-worth it.  I'd do it again.  Maybe more beer this time though - heh.

More photos...

Dave's first scene from our first stop:

With only about 15 minutes at our first stop, I whipped out some dry media and paper.  Barely got anywhere though:

Dave's second piece from our first stop.  This was the one and only "keeper" from the day.  Very nice:

The early beginnings of my view from our second spot.  This quickly became a bust for both of us, and 3:00 neared so we had to pack up and take off.

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