Growth in what I do is always at the forefront of my thoughts. Deciding how to navigate my progression as an artist is what I often think about. Recently, I decided to set out and challenge this way I think about my process of painting. I began creating some smaller pieces as well as shifted some of my focus to painting on location or for better words, en plein air.
I purchased a new 6x8" pochade box to replace my 8x10" box to help save some weight in my backpack, enabling me to hike further and stay longer. Painting outdoors was something I had wanted to incorporate more in my schedule, but I had no idea it would become such a vital aspect of my process.
Once I started working en plein air on a more consistent basis, I began to see my growth as an artist accelerate. Not only does the challenge of painting in a variety of conditions teach me invaluable lessons, it furthers my connection with my subject matter.
I always attribute a lot of a successful painting to the time spent learning about what I'm trying to capture. Combine all of these things along with the many hours spent tinkering with my colors in an attempt to compensate for changing light conditions and overall I begin to feel more comfortable.
Fast forward 5 months later and I've completed 16 plein air paintings, each one with a unique experience attached to it. I hiked hundreds of miles through the backcountry during this time and I feel that I've come a long ways with my art.
Being able to reflect back on the older paintings has got me to think more critically about color, composition, and light as I work through my current ones.
I put a significant amount of time and care into each piece. I find that for me and my goal as an artist, I cannot capture what I need to while I'm outdoors. I always have things I'm studying and trying to progress in that can only be done under controlled light in my studio; this is where these paintings play such a large role in my work.
Regardless of size, the act of completing a painting can far outweigh the total time spent in front of the easel. I find that each painting harbors a lesson learned or some type of take away that I can use to my advantage in the future. These lessons begin to compound overtime and accelerate the progression of my artwork.
Thinking and writing about what each piece means to me is another part of how these paintings have become an important part of what I do. I always like to say that my paintings are born through my personal experiences. In other words, without the story, there would be no painting. Capturing this with pen and paper is crucial part of what ultimately defines my art.
I plan on continuing to grow my gallery of plein air paintings in the coming years. These paintings are at the beginning of it all, shaping who I am as an artist how I communicate through my work.
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I'm Chuck Black, landscape and wildlife artist based in Southwest Montana.
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