The Window of Time
Valenciennes' two hour window for me defines the essence of what working en plein air means: in the open, natural light, looking at sun-illuminated forms and attempting, in the time available, to capture an effective summary of what you see. If it’s not that—if you’re not looking at forms in sunlight, and trying to capture that image, and are not therefore constrained to work within the window of time the sun allows—I’m not sure what it is you’re doing, but I wouldn’t call it “plein air.” One needs to be quick, or better, economical, in attacking the scene as the sun tracks across the sky (plein air painters have a Ptolemaic understanding of the cosmos!). I have found, especially for Rome, that working on a medium toned—ochre/brown, or burnt sienna, or Venetian red—ground facilitates that economy, not to mention gives body and volume to forms. Here are some recent examples. I’d welcome any thoughts on this topic….
|Theater of Marcellus from the Portico d'Ottavia|
|Pons Fabricius from the Tiber level|