September 1st marks the first day of the Strada Easel Challenge! This is my first time joining in on the challenge and it came at the perfect time. After not working with oil paints or realism for many years, I was ready to jump back in. But I was rusty and had forgotten much of what I learned so I was taking it slowly. Too slowly in fact. I needed something to push me out of my hesitancy and really get me moving.
I’ve been going out for the past year and a half drawing mostly but painting some en plein air. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it basically means painting from life outside. This is what reignited my interest in oils and realism. Realizing I was pretty bad at painting landscapes en plein air, I took on #the100dayproject to improve my realism and life painting skills by drawing more. It was so much fun and I definitely grew more comfortable drawing and sketching in my sketchbooks.
Just a month after I finished #the100daychallenge, I learned that the Strada Easel Challenge was happening in September and I knew this was my next hill to climb! Wanting to paint a variety of subjects, I set up a lightbox in my studio with a little clip on lamp for a spotlight. The box is very simple; it’s a cardboard box I painted black on the inside with a hole cut in one side. I can turn the box to light the subject from different sides or from above. It can be lined with craft papers in different colors or draped with fabric inside.
One thing I’ve learned from challenges done in the past is that it’s so important to write out goals or guidelines for myself. I came up with five this time.
- Become more comfortable with oil paints again.
- Find a palette I enjoy (which colors do I prefer and which ones will give me the widest range of colors when mixed).
- Discover what types of painting surfaces I prefer for oils. Smooth, rough, wood, canvas, etc.?
- Learn which mediums I prefer and how best to take advantage of them. (mediums are the oils and such that you mix with your paints to increase viscosity, slow or quicken drying times, create different textures, etc.)
- Paint faster. This is important when painting en plein air because light outside changes SO quickly!
I’ll be taking notes after each painting so I can see my progress over time. The notes will include: time I spent painting, time of day I painted (this is to help me recognize the most optimal times for creating good work), which colors and mediums used, which surface I used and my thoughts on it, and the location I painted. The location will be mostly in my studio, but I want to get into the habit of writing down that information so it becomes second nature when I go out to paint. I read about one plein air painter who writes the navigational coordinates on the backs of all their paintings and I love this idea!
Next blog post, I’ll share my notes with you and what I’m learning as this challenge moves along. In the meantime, here’s a video of my first painting! It’s in real time, so you can see how long it actually took me to paint. I edited out the times I paused to mix color or step back and look at the work in progress so you wouldn’t have to sit through an hour long video. In total, the painting took me an hour to complete, with about half of that being putting brush to canvas. Lots of time is spent observing and mixing color. Hope you enjoy the video!
xo – Hannah
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