Plein Air Marathon

posted in Drawing

Plein Air Marathon

I saw a notice in the window of Chelsea Framers a few months ago detailing The Plein Air Marathon.  I was not familiar with this French expression, which means “in the open air”.  Artists have long painted outdoors but in the mid 19th century working in natural light became particularly important to Impressionism.  The popularity of plein air increased in the 1870s with the introduction of paints in tubes.  I do not consider myself a painter and I like to work in my studio.  I therefore decided this marathon was not ideal for me.

I broke away from the comfort of the studio while in Ireland on an Artist Fellowship in October.  I drew outside in the raging Irish Atlantic gale, torrential rain and occasional sunshine.  On my return to London I wanted to continue to draw outside challenging myself to communicate the visceral quality of the landscape.

I decided to try the Plein Air Marathon.  My clean paper was stamped and I had a week to create work outside, or, in the studio but had to be from life.  I braved the cold and drew flower stalls on the Kings Road, Fulham Road and South Kensington in London.  It was an intense experience, working on main roads with sirens blasting, people enquiring what I was doing and the flower stall itself altering when plants were purchased.  The explosion of colourful flowers contrasted the muted urban landscape.  I delivered eleven small drawings to the gallery for inclusion in the end of season Group Exhibition Chelsea In Red.

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