I’ve been on this plein-air kick lately.
This post is going to be about painting outside.
Let's start with this video by M Kazmi (13:54). It's what got me hooked on plein air, and I’ll tell you why I can’t stop watching his content.
Muddassir Kazmi is a watercolorist out of Lahore, Pakistan.
I found him searching through watercolor demos on YouTube, and I immediately fell in love with his work. He picks basic primary colors for his paintings, but he gets so much out of them. The technique and values are very intentional, and you end up with something that's sophisticated but easy for me to understand. It's like how you feel when you hear a really good lecture or Ted Talk, and the speaker tells you something that's complicated but uses words that you understand. That's how I feel when I look at Muddassir Kazmi's art. The other thing - and the point of this post - is that he always paints outdoors. I had only painted indoors myself, and I was only learning from other studio painters, so this piqued my curiosity.
Then, while watching this video Easy Watercolor cityscape painting tutorial for Beginners | M Kazmi Studios (14:59), a weird thought struck me: he’s not using pink for the skin tone of the people. Duh, he’s in Pakistan and not painting white people. But then I started noticing other things, like how his cityscapes have as many motorcycles as cars, and how there are a million telephone wires between the buildings. He’s painting what is around him.
Compare that Umberto Rossini, to another painter I learned from and have written about in another post. He’s from France and his cityscapes look closer to what I’m used to seeing living next to DC – white people on sidewalks surrounded by modern (not rusty) cars. People are colorful and fashionable and have long hair. He’s also painting the world he sees.
I started coming to this conclusion: to train my artist's eye, to paint better paintings, I need to start painting the world I live in. Since becoming a painter myself, I’ve come to realize that everything in a painting is put there on purpose. If a person is painted on a sidewalk carrying a purse, it’s because the artist chose not to paint them empty-handed. But also, it's an art of learning what to leave out. Which tiny details detract from the overall image? So as I'm working these things and getting better at the cognitive side of painting, painting outdoors is one of the things I going to start doing .
I’m working on building my own setup now. Sure I could buy a pre-made easel for $100 or $200 on amazon, but that’s no fun. I’m making my own.
For inspiration, I'm using this video by artist and author Judd Mercer (7:30). You really ought to check out his Instagram by the way (https://www.instagram.com/juddmercer_art/). He’s got a wicked cool style with classical training, but he paints fantasy art.
His rig is essentially a whiteboard on a camera tripod. I loved this one because of how you can tilt the board in any direction as you paint. It’s actually very similar to what Umberto Rossini uses in his studio. On the first attempt, I bought a cheap tripod, but the gimbal was different from the one that the two of them use. So I didn't exactly have a great way to attach it to the piece of whiteboard yet. The first attempt had a few screws and bolts and a lot of super glue, which promptly broke while I was painting on it.
I’m so excited for this project and ready to get outside when the weather warms up. When it’s 70 degrees in a month or two, I want to be able to pack my paints and my tripod in a bag, hop on my bike, and go somewhere cool in the city and paint for a morning. After spending so many nights and weekends in the studio (aka alone in my bedroom), I’m stoked to get outside and take advantage of all of this beautiful city I’m living in.