Making Art Outside My Comfort Zone: Plein Air Painting in France

Making Art Outside My Comfort Zone: Plein Air Painting in France

Nan teaching in Cassis

Nan teaching in Cassis

Last month, I had the opportunity of a lifetime.  I traveled to Aix-En-Provence with artist and teacher Nan Hass Feldman for a ten-day painting trip as her assistant.  My responsibilities included organizing materials, overseeing the students, and driving one of three vans to different destinations in the region for plein air painting.

My work has predominately been abstract, or in some cases loosely representational. My usual medium is encaustic, alone or in combination with photography, textiles and collage. However, given the difficulty using encaustic outdoors I ventured outside my comfort zone and experimented with other mediums that Nan was teaching including Caran d’ache, open acrylics, soft pastels, watercolor, gouache, and charcoal.

Painting in Ventebran

Painting in Ventebran

At Cassis, Gordes, Ventebran, Loumarin, and in Aix (at the Vendome), our primary painting subjects were of scenery and architecture. I usually photograph in these settings, and while I was able to shoot some pictures, I also tried to explore painting styles outside of my comfort zone.

Most of the painters on this trip were experienced painters, employing watercolors to their representational styles. While I felt like the odd one, I decided to be somewhat of a maverick and experiment with gouache and acrylic. Initially I was very disappointed with my seemingly unfocused effort.

peacock

Peacock, digital photograph

However, I later realized after arriving home that my eight pieces were respectable, and I developed a new perspective on my work, with an increased emphasis on mark making and drawing elements. Although I have maintained a core artistic style, I now am more willing to approach my art with more confidence and more tools. This experience has taught me to venture into new artistic territories and expand one’s horizons, even if it seems uncomfortable at first. If you feel stuck or uninspired, I recommend pushing your limits by trying something new. You never know where it can lead you!

 

 

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