Tag Archives: en plein air

The Art of Cropping: Three crops together

The Art of Cropping…And What It Can Do For Your Painting

Recently I was asked about cropping – why do it, how to do it, when to do it. Indeed, the question was: Is there a ‘formula’ for cropping?

I’ve written a previous post on using a viewfinder to help you crop your reference photo to get the best view to paint. (A reminder – try out a number of thumbnails!!) This post is about cropping your finished pastel painting.

I can’t say enough good things about cropping. Cropping is about trimming away everything from your painting until only the essential remains. Cropping has the potential to transform your work from ‘meh’ to ‘wow!’. Yet we don’t utilize this great tool often enough. Why not? Before I get to that, let’s look at why you might consider cropping.
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Change Things Up: Gail Sibley, "The Pink Wall," Unison pastels on UART 400 paper, 9 x 12 in. Available.

Change Things Up When Painting En Plein Air

I don’t know about where you are, but here in Victoria, it’s still toooo damn cold to go painting en plein air! That’s why it was so lovely to work on location while I was in Mexico (I’ve been back just over a week). I painted en plein air a number of times, partly for the pure joy of it but also in preparation for my workshop in Spain in a couple of months. (You can read more about the workshop here -there’s still space so why not join us??) One of the things about working en plein air that I love is that you can change things up.

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Chaos of Light And Shadow: 9. Tweaked and finished. Gail Sibley, “Gone to the Beach!,” Unison pastels on UART 400, 9 x 12 in

Chaos of Light And Shadow – Painting En Plein Air In Mexico

In this post, I want to share with you a piece I did where I tried to sort out the chaos of light and shadow.

I’ve been in Mexico for two weeks. One of my projects was to paint en plein air as preparation for my painting holiday workshop in Spain at the beginning of May. (Easier to paint outside here than in the rain and cold of home in Victoria BC at the moment!) To that end, for the first time when coming to La Manzanilla, I brought my easel. Usually I have a small box of pastels and board and paper so as you can imagine, way more than I usually bring! Still it’s been a treat to stand at an easel rather than have a rock, a log, a chair if I’m lucky, or flat on the ground if I’m not, dictate the scene I’m going to paint. Now it was only the need for shade that I looked for. The light is bright here, the colours vibrant, the shadows defined and dark.

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Painting Holiday workshop: Student work on the theme of dominance

10 Reasons To Go On A Painting Holiday Workshop

A year and a half ago, Mario Vukelic invited me to lead a painting holiday workshop with Pastel Workshops Croatia. And early this September, it happened! I had an amazing group of six students who were dedicated in their pursuit of pastel painting knowledge. There were times of concentrated silence and times of uncontrolled laughter – all of which filled my heart. And as an instructor, there’s nothing like hearing  ‘Aha!’ exclamations!

Happily, although the weather was sometimes iffy, we had a spacious studio in which to work. The weather prevented us from going on the Istrian tour (boo hoo) but on the bright side, it gave the students more learning time from me in the studio and I was happy to share more!

The Hotel Villa Gloria is small and beautiful, rooms are comfy and clean, staff are incredibly friendly and accommodating, food is plentiful and delicious, and there’s a gorgeous pool for swimming or just contemplating life with book and cocktail in hand at the end of a hard painting day. Perfect!


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Tweaking my plein air painting in the studio: Gail Sibley, "Shepherd Hills Hideaway," Great American pastels on Wallis Belgian Mist mounted paper, 9 x 12 in. Available.

Tweaking My Plein Air Painting In The Studio – How I Did It

A couple days ago I was on Salt Spring Island visiting my parents and one of the things I really wanted to do while there was to work en plein air. It’s been awhile since I’ve painted on location and as I’m preparing for my workshop in Croatia, this was on the to-do list. It was a perfect day for painting and although I went through the angst of I-can’t-remember-how-to-paint during the process, I was quite happy with the result. Of course the outcome wasn’t as important as the doing of it but still, it’s nice to have some success. This post reveals my thoughts on tweaking my plein air painting back in the studio as well as the progress of the painting on location.

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Richard Suckling, "Horadada," Unison and Sennelier pastels on Sennelier LaCarte 9 ½ x 12 ½ in. Painted from a lovely tapas bar in the village on the sea front with a nice bit of shade.

Richard Suckling – Studio Artist Takes On Plein Air Painting

Bright and bold were the words that came to mind when I first saw the work of UK artist Richard Suckling. His work dazzles with colour and light. I featured his work last March and since then have been awed every time he posts a new piece.

In October, I noticed he’d started to post pieces done en plein air in Spain. They startled me with their immediacy and had a quality of fearlessness. And so I invited Richard to contribute a blog about these pieces. Little did I know that they were indeed daring as painting on location was out of this studio painter’s comfort zone!

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Pastelling Outdoors: 10. Gail Sibley, "Summer's Here," Sennelier pastels on Wallis paper, 9 x 12 in, available

Pastelling Outdoors (And Chillin’!) In Oak Bay

Yayyyyyyy, summer’s here in all its glory. That means it’s time to get pastelling outdoors!! For me, it takes some revving up to do when I’m out of the habit. While Cam was away, I made it a goal to start the ball rolling. I took myself out for breakfast (hmmmm…reward first?) then found a neighbouring park where I set up to paint the sunny view of sea and sailboats.

So let’s take a look at what happened when I went painting en plein air.

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11. A few more tweaks and for now, it's done! "Garden Corner, Schminke pastels on Wallis paper, 9 x 12 in

Garden Corner – An En Plein Air Progression

There’s so much in a garden to paint – long views and closeups, flowers and garden accoutrements, seasonal changes or a single season, a garden corner or an entire garden – all make for great subject matter!

I’m in Ontario to teach at the ICAN Pastel Conference in Aurora during the week. Happily the plan is to spend both weekends with my sister and her family. Last weekend at her place, I found some quiet time to pastel en plein air. It’s been awhile since I’ve painted on location – Mexico in February was the last time – so this was such a pleasure. Hot weather standing in the shade painting. What could be nicer?

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Simplify, Simplify, Simplify: Gail Sibley, "View From Martin's," Sennelier pastels on Wallis paper, 9 x 12 in

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify! Working En Plein Air in Mexico

We’re back from our two-week vacation in La Manzanilla, Mexico where we danced up a storm during the first week in a tango intensive workshop and then relaxed a bit in the second which is when I managed to get some pastelling time in. This pastel is a view from the verandah of Martin’s Restaurant. At first I was a bit overwhelmed by the scene until I spoke the mantra, simplify, simplify, simplify! It’s always good when you remember that you don’t have to put everything in – only include what you want to say something about. Let’s have a look at the view and the thumbnail sketch I did of it.

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pastel finished? : Gail Sibley, "OverCast Day At The Beach," pastel on Wallis paper, 9 x 12 in

Is This Plein Air Pastel Finished?

I think many of us artists have this problem – knowing when a painting is finished. Sometimes, without our realizing it, a painting is finished back a few steps. I know my tendency is to want to pick away, making the tiniest of tweaks. Often this can eradicate the spontaneity that was there especially when it comes to work done en plein air. We bring the piece back into the studio, study it, and then see the ‘flaws’ which we need to ‘correct’. Often these so called flaws are what bring the painting to vibrant life and ‘correcting’ them brings along a slow death. Unless we stop in time. And when is that time?

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