James River with 295 Bridge / oil paint and photo

One day in the swamp / a plein air story

One day in the swamp / a plein air story

Does Realism show reality? Is my work Realism?

Does Realism show reality? Is my work Realism?

I wish I could answer yes or no but I can’t decide.

On one hand I’d say no because reality changes so fast and I work slowly. I think of a photo of being closer to reality than my painting but the camera lies. My naked eyes lie too. The camera can’t show depth as well as my naked eye sees it and flattens the colors too. Then on the other hand, as I’m trying to paint what I see, I’m making decisions and changes every step of the way that take the painting away from reality.

When weather permits, I go to the same place at the same time of day and work on my painting for a few hours. Some times the tide is out at noon and some times it’s in at noon. I have to decide which tide I want to paint. I wind up painting over what I did the time before, or faking the water when it’s all different. It’s an experiment. If it looks convincing I’ll try to do that again and if it’s not good I give up on that one and try something else.

ok, here’s the story.

I was walking down the trail towing my art supplies and a man who was walking back out stopped and said to me, “It’s not a good day for painting down there. The tide is out. Way out. I’ve never seen it so low. It’s a mud flat.” He wondered what phase the moon was in. I didn’t know about the moon. I said, “That’s ok. I’m not working on the water today. I have to do the background trees first.”

It was windy and cold that day and I had to mix some colors before painting. I took the lid off my palette and put it on the ground. Right away the wind blew the lid down on the mud about 10 ft. out. I had to climb down a steep slippery muddy hill about 5 ft. then step on two logs that are usually submerged to reach the lid. I was glad I was wearing my hiking boots. I didn’t fall into the muck. Then I used vines to pull myself up the hill again.

We had a lot of wind and that makes it difficult, but if the sun’s out I want to try to make some progress on the painting. It’s not only that the wind blows your supplies away, it knocks down your easel and painting if you forget to hold on. It blows all kinds of debris into your paint and onto your wet painting. Most of it comes off easily when the paint dries. Mother Nature doesn’t make it easy for the plein air painter.

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