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#100DaysEnPleinAir Challenge - painting outdoors in oil

en plein air oil painting May 05, 2021

Day 2 - #100DaysEnPleinAir - Oil on Canvas 16" x 12"

There was a time in my life when I thought my reason for being an oil painter was to have a good excuse to sit quietly in a meadow or forest, to stand beside a cliff feeling the heat of the sun radiating back to me, and to spend hours watching clouds drift by. I still feel that it might have been my reason to be a painter. I definitely hadn't planned on NOT doing those things on a regular basis, yet I strayed from painting in the sunshine, feeling the breeze kiss my cheeks.  Time passed quickly and the gear in my grab-and -go backpack found its way back onto the shelves in my studio ... until ... every few years, I would remember my roots as an artist who painted in oil, trekking with a heavy easel, canvas, brushes, rags and paint wherever I wandered.

A decade ago I invested in lighter weight gear and spent several years painting outdoors in oil again, enjoying every moment (except when eaten alive by mosquitos in Whitehaven, Maryland.  The insects are still stuck in the painting that hangs on Dave and Anita's bedroom wall.) With lighter equipment and my wanderlust reawakened, I traveled further, slowly transitioning to even lighter materials ... ink and watercolor.  

I no longer needed the trunk of a car to hold my gear.  I could pack art supplies, clothing and camping equipment (also much lighter and compact than it used to be) in a backpack and board a plane for anywhere in the world.

I took only ink and watercolor with me on planes, except for the year I accepted the Strada Easel challenge to paint en plein air every day for thirty days,   Thanks to the mini Strada Easel, I was able to carry ink, watercolor AND oil with me to Paris where I spent the month painting en plein air. 

Mini Strada Easel in Luxembourg Gardens

It was well worth it.  I completed the challenge and won a full-size Strada Easel that I use when at home and sometimes when traveling by car.

Mine was the last of five names pulled from a hat filled with the names of everyone who completed the challenge.

Traveling by plane to the West Coast, Maine, Maryland, Wales and France took up six to seven months of the year and my oil painting gear found its way back onto the shelves again.  It whispered to me in my sleep and nudged me awake after an afternoon of sifting through files of paintings to use as reference for the online classes I've been creating.

Not having painted outdoors in oils for several years now, I found myself making excuses not to gather the gear and step outside.  It's easier to grab a fountain pen and a small watercolor palette.  A thin sketchbook is smaller and lighter than a canvas .... and the excuses multiply ...

#OneWeek100People Challenge

Another love of mine that drifted away from me is sketching people.  I live on top of a hill surrounded by fields and very few neighbors.  The pandemic made it impossible for me to sit in a cafe or diner to sketch.  Playgrounds were empty.  Pubs were closed.  I didn't realize how much I missed sketching people until I took on Marc Taro Holme's #OneWeek100People challenge.  What fun! Even though I worked mostly from photographs, which I rarely do, I enjoyed the challenge immensely.  I felt inspired enough to take on #the100dayproject and commit to sketching black walnut husks for the entire 100 days.  Today is Day 94! The ink was originally a lovely pink.  I left it simmering on the stove too long.

Day 94 - Black Walnut Husks - Natural Dye Ink (burned avocado)

Now that #the100dayproject is almost complete, I've taken on a new 100 day challenge.  I've gathered my oil gear from the studio shelves, packed it into two different bags, one for near and one for far.  I'm committed to pushing the limits of my oil painting outdoors.  There are habits I want to break and new techniques I wish to play with.  I know so much more about color now than I did when I painted daily in oils, but I fall back into the same habits of mixing dreary colors when I'm automatically trying to "represent" what I'm looking at.  The colors in my mind are so much livelier than the colors I actually see in the landscapes.  

Rain or shine, I will paint outdoors in oil for the next ninety-eight days.  I might be painting from inside of my garage looking out at my car if its pouring rain.  There are also a few dead pine trees I could paint from that vantage point.  I'll try different sizes, different surfaces and an assortment of techniques.

If you feel like joining me on a 100 day challenge to boot yourself out of the box, please do.  I'm posting my paintings on Instagram with the tags #chriscarterart and #100DaysEnPleinAir. Post your paintings and, if you wish, tag them #100DaysEnPleinair.  You can work in any medium you wish, and even mix them up.  It's totally up to you.  The main idea is to experiment, try new approaches and paint EVERY day.

Thanks for reading my blog!

Chris Carter


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