A local art student is completing a project onen plein air in Art History and has requested responses from other artists on their experience of painting en plein air for comparative study.
“I am incredibly interested by painting outdoors, and was wondering if it were possible for you to answer some questions I have on the topic?”
Their particular area of study has included Scandinavian artists such as Peder Severin Krøyer (1851-1909) working en plein air in the town of Skagen, Denmark. They are looking at the Skagen artists’ relationship with light in Skagen, and especially, Krøyer’s en plein air works created during his ‘blue period’.
If you are able to answer any of the questions below to aid their understanding of painting en plein air (particularly before Friday 6 May) that would be fantastic and we will pass on responses to them.
Pop Artist Colin Self joins Paint Out Norwich events
It is with great pleasure that Paint Out Norwich welcomes the involvement of the well known Norfolk and internationally acclaimed artist Colin Self. Colin was a judge at Paint Out Norwich 2014 and this year he has graciously agreed to be a guest artist at both the Tuesday and Wednesday evening nocturne competition sessions and at the public mass Mousehold Heath ‘paint out’ which is already expecting some 70-80+ artists of all ages and abilities to paint Norwich from the Heath on the Friday afternoon (22 October). Colin envisages basing himself around Norwich Castle for the two nocturne evenings 6.30-9.30pm on 20-21 October.
In 2009, Colin was invited to create a new graduation mace for the Norwich University College of the Arts (NUCA, now NUA). Its handle was made to resemble Norfolk reeds to be “reminiscent of this beautiful place,” said Colin.
“We chose Colin to design the mace because he has an international reputation as a fine artist and is an ex-student from the old Norwich School of Art and Design.” – David Girling from NUA
About Colin Self the Artist
Colin Self is a draughtsman, printmaker, sculptor and painter. He is best known as a ‘Pop Artist’, whose work addressed the theme of Cold War politics. He studied first at Norwich Art School and in 1961 he entered the Slade School of Fine Arts in London. Artist Richard Hamilton called him:
“the best draughtsman in England since William Blake.”
Whilst at the Slade, he met artists, David Hockney and Peter Blake, who greatly admired Self’s paintings. He went on to become one of the forerunners, along with the likes of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, of the ‘Pop Art’ movement.
In 1962 and 1965 he travelled to the Canada and the USA with David Hockney which heightened his consciousness of Cold War politics. Events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and CND marches led him to create highly-innovative works including a series of drawings that had imminent nuclear destruction as a theme whilst others contained Art Deco cinema interiors or hot dogs.
He also produced works “featuring apparently harmless motifs from contemporary life and consumer society which at times convey an unexpected atmosphere of violence and sexual threat. His intention was to produce a detailed record of his society which, in the event of its destruction, would convey its essential qualities to anyone coming across his work in the future.”
Return to Norwich, Norfolk
In 1965, disillusioned and suspicious of the commercial art world, Self returned permanently to Norwich and spent most of the 1970s in artistic solitiude where Norfolk has been his “spiritual and visual inspiration” which he has portrayed in watercolours, charcoal, and mixed media including a toy cow!
“The landscape in some ways is my visual script. Hidden in there behind the lie of the land is not only my past but the past of everyone, my future and my energy.” – Colin Self, BBC interview
During this time both “his subject matter and his repertoire of techniques continued to expand, taking in atmospheric Norfolk landscapes, still-lifes and quirky observations of human behaviour.”
In the politically charged 1980s he visited the Soviet Union for inspiration returning to produce some surrealist collage works which seem “remarkably prescient in the light of events” such as 9/11, and yet he also created works with humour and a lighter touch.
Since 2000, he has worked on his ‘Odyssey/Iliad’ multiple-plate etchings series aiming to re-tell Homer’s classical story using contemporary images.
He has been exhibited at the Tate Gallery (1995) where several of his works reside in their collections, and Pallant House Gallery (2008).
Paint Out Norwich Mass Art Event on Mousehold Heath
Following up on the successful mass Sunrise ‘paint out’ at Norfolk’s Wells-next-the-Sea as part of Paint Out Wells 2015,Paint Out are holding a similar event for artists of all ages and abilities at Paint Out Norwich, October 22, 1:30-4:30pm. Register to take part for free.
Over 40 Paint Out Norwich competition artists will join members of the public – amateur and keen artists alike, in a mass painting session on historic Mousehold Heath with its expansive skyline views overlooking the city of Norwich taking in the towering spire of Norwich Cathedral.
Already the mass ‘paint out’ is attracting press attention having been discussed on BBC Radio Norfolk and made the front and inside pages of the Norwich Evening News & Eastern Daily Pressthis week.
Over 55 public artists have already registered and people can still register until the day itself. One entire family from age 5 upwards have registered to truly make this an all-age event with others as old as 85 taking part. Another family is represented by three generations of grandmother, mother and daughters, of whom, two are also entering the core competition!
The Heath will therefore could be filled with over 90 combined artistspainting the landscape in pastels, oils, watercolour, acrylic, pen and ink, mixed media, drawing or anything else that can be applied to canvas/board/paper. October is also the month of the world’s biggest drawing festival the Big Draw art event whose theme this year is “every drawing tells a story”. Last year’s Norwich competition even saw plein air screen-printing! You can bring canvas, board, paper, sketchpad, or anything else on which to make art, that can be hung on a wall at the OPEN venue in Norwich, Tuesday 27 – Saturday 31 October.
Mousehold Heath has featured in significant Norwich history in several centuries stretching back nearly 900 years. From William of Norwich in 1144 to thePeasant’s Revolt of 1381 and in 1549 it served as a launchpad for the Kett’s Rebellion. If this Paint Out event continues to gather pace it will be a significant mass gathering and historic open air art event itself.
Norwich School of Artists
Both Mousehold Heath itself and the view of Norwich from it have featured in 19th century paintings by several members of the Norwich School of Artists including John Crome and John Sell Cotman. Paint Out‘s mission is to reinvigorate and redefine en plein air art for the 21st century and its growing Plein Air competitions and public art event inclusivity mean that it is well on its way to bringing art to the masses, just as the Norwich School of Artists in 1803 was Britain’s first provincial art movement founded by and for working-class artists. They even held their first art meeting in the The Hole in the Wall tavern.
John Crome began life as the son of a weaver and went from being an apprentice sign-painter to being collected and exhibited in The Tate Gallery, Royal Academy and by the philanthropist and politician Jeremiah James Colman, a scion of the famous Colman’s Mustard family. The works he amassed were eventually donated to the Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery.
Why can’t you paint what has been painted before? German artist, Hermann Albert asked in 1972 of whether one can still paint an idyllic Tuscan countryside scene. “Why can’t you? You can do everything. Why should anyone tell me I can’t paint a sunset?”
“In the summer of 1972 I was in Florence for a while, and one weekend I went on a trip to the mountains with some colleagues. We got out of the car and there we were standing in the Tuscan countryside, with cypress trees, the olive groves and the old houses–it was harmony…. The sun was setting and soon it was out of sight, but the rays of sunlight were still, illuminating the countryside obliquely, the shadows were getting longer and longer, and you could sense the approach of nightfall although it was really still daytime. We stood there, with our own consciousness, looking at this dramatic spectacle, and suddenly one of us said “Its a pity you can’t paint that anymore these days.” That had been a key word I’d heard ever since I started trying to be a painter. And I said to him, out of pure impudence: “Why can’t you? You can do everything.” It was only after I’d said it that I realized what had initially been a piece of provocation was really true. Why should anyone tell me I can’t paint a sunset?” – Hermann Albert from an exhibition catalogue, 1985 by Thiele-Dohrmann
In commenting, on whether repetition of what has been painted before lacks originality, the art critic Arthur Coleman Danto decried that on the contrary one should neither be put off nor be blinded to the freshness of the new interpretation.
“As a critic, I am never put off by the fact that what an artist does has been done before. That someone did it “first,” it seems to me, is often an observation that only blinds you to what the artist did who did it “second.” The repetition need not entail a lack of originality.” – Arthur Coleman Danto, 1993
James Colman, one of the founders of Paint OutNorwich (and now Wells-next-the-Sea), was inspired to set up a plein air arts competition that draws dozens of artists with easels to paint similar locations but each interpreting it in their own ways. He says:
“Until you’ve started the plein air journey your perception as to what it takes to do it to a very high standard may be clouded by having to walk on the shoulders of giants or having to overcome the fear of being ridiculed as some outmoded eccentric. Forget that straight away. Easel painting never went away. Pick up your brushes and come and join us in Wells. You may surprise yourself. It will open up a whole new world of challenges. You will meet new and interesting people and it will be a lot of fun along the way. See you there!”
Easels are indeed not dead, in fact, they are being revived as Paint Out and other plein air events revive open air painting across the UK, Ireland, Europe, and America. You can see easels everywhere during 9-11 September in Wells, North Norfolk and 20-22 October in Norwich. You can apply to take part or enter the public sunrise ‘paint out’.