Paint Outs

I've had a busy Fall teaching workshops in Nevada and hosting Paint Outs where local artists get together to paint outdoors at a select location. We try to do this once a month in a new place, and I plan to also host these in a wider geographic area in California and Nevada. We named our informal group Desert Plein Air Painters, and you can find us on Facebook and MeetUp.

In October and November we met at different locations in Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area near Las Vegas, Nevada. We each painted a similar view, and the results were very different interpretations of the landscape--always interesting to see the different styles!

Painting the Red Rock cliffs with pastels and oils.

My set-up to paint the colorful sandstone: a Guerrilla Paintbox with a small 8 x 10 inch panel.  The shadows moved quickly!

Steve even decided to do an abstract interpretation. Beautiful.

Keith Noble, Stephen Shooster, and Laura Cunningham after another successful Paint Out, practicing plein air painting outdoors.

Red Rock Cliffs, oil on panel, 8 x 10 inches, November 2017. Copyright Laura Cunningham.
Completing a painting outdoors is quite a challenge, and I've had to "throw out" several attempts--either the sunlight changed too fast to finish, or I simply couldn't capture the effects I wanted in the few hours working outside. Actually I never throw out a painting, they are all valuable experiences learning how to mix color, imitate the play of light and shadow on a two-dimensional surface, and observe nature. I always work on a painting with the thought that no one may ever see it, but I keep the attempts in my studio as references. Then, when conditions are right and the creative Muse is flowing, occasionally I am able to finish a painting to a higher level and present it to the public.

Plein air painting presents many challenges not found in studio painting, but the practice is critical in my view to painting in a fresh manner in any form, and learning more about how to translate natural scenes into a visual language of paint.


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