Sunday, October 26, 2008

4 from the studio





In my job as a designer for animated films, I am always in the studio, but for my own personal work, I gravitated towards the plein air approach, partially as a means of escape from the studio. In the 12 years or so that I've been working outdoors in pastel, these are the first studio pieces I have attempted for my personal work. Recently I found myself with some time to focus on my own art, so over about a 2 week period, I took some of my Sierra pastels and worked them up into larger pieces. Large is relative, as these pieces are 14 x 16". Too large for me to take out in the field with my current setup, but perhaps still considered small by many artists. Scale aside, what I found valuable about this process was the ability to contemplate, correct, and explore 'happy accidents', following many of the valuable paths and processes that enrich our experience and work as artists. When working outdoors, there are all sorts of constraints and conditions operating that are part and parcel of that experience. The dynamics of light and color are constantly and relentlessly shifting, the weather may be bearing down unpleasantly, and there's a practical limit to the size one can work in. These issues are not present in the studio.
What's missing there, of course, is the contemplative, focussed, witness of nature, through one's own eyes, the sense memory of place, light, and color, as well as the physical result of that, laid down in some form by the artist. Each process has it's own unique benefits, and combining them is a natural evolution, I am realizing. The fact that it has taken me 12 years to figure this one out, doesn't really bother me at all. It just gives me something to look forward to on rainy days.

I was partially inspired by an interesting essay written by Jean Stern in the spring 2008 California Art Club newsletter, provocatively entitled, "Plein Air Painting: Where Did We Go Wrong? I felt Jean was challenging artists like myself, who only paint outdoors, and have ignored the studio as a resource for the further development of what is found in nature. He seemed to be implying that we were just eating the cookie dough, instead of baking cookies!
Also, Sharon Calahan, a coworker, and talented fellow artist, recently exhibited some large oils at a Napa Valley show, based on her plein air work, that impressed me.
The father of all this for me, has to be Clyde Aspevig, whose catalog 'Field Studies' was responsible for getting me up into the Sierras to paint in the first place. That catalog is hard to come by, but fortunately, most of the paintings in it are also reproduced in a wonderful book on Aspevig's work, entitled 'Elemental Solitude', which can be ordered from his own website.

28 comments:

Tom Scholes said...

Great post! Thanks.

Marian Fortunati said...

They are fresh and lovely... where ever you painted them.
Although there is always an aspect of spontaneity to outdoor work, it is not always lost when working from that work in the studio.... you sure didn't!!!

RAWLS said...

Beautiful work my friend!!

Aaron said...

Your work is incredible Bill, dead on colors and value. Beautiful

Stacey Peterson said...

I don't remember how I found your blog, but I love your pastels, and these are absolutely stunning! Do you sell your work?

Bill Cone said...

Thanks to everyone for your kind remarks. In answer to Stacey's question, some of my work is for sale. Feel free to email me at moraga97@yahoo.com

kim lordier said...

Beautiful, Bill. Hope you had a great time in Laguna, it was wonderful to see these works in real life! Say hi to Patty.

Isn't it fun working BIG?!

(Hi Stacey, how's the little one?)

Kim Lordier

Carole Gray-Weihman said...

I'm always impressed with your work, Bill. You're an inspiration.

Belinda Del Pesco said...

Beautiful work, as always, and very articulate essay on the benefits of *both* studio and plein air painting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subjects, and your incredible art.

Jared Shear said...

Beautiful.....these pieces really shine. They benefit from having the time to refine the composition, edges, forms, etc.....but I don't think they would be as nearly as powerful without having those initial sketches, and on location memories to work off of. It's fun though to look back and compare these studio pieces to the plein air studies.

I know I have a hard time, especially in the summer being cooped up in the studio. Up here in Montana there is a limited amount of what I would call "comfortable" plein air time.

I agree though that there is a balance to be had, and I enjoyed the analogy of playing with cookie dough, as opposed to baking cookies.

Hope you share more cookies soon!

janabouc said...

Thanks for writing about this and for the links. I'm going to try to find Jean's article as this is a subject I've been thinking about quite a bit lately and had started (but not finished) a blog post about it. When I do finish it I'll include a link to your post. As much as I enjoy the process of plein air painting and some of the work I see (especially yours) so much of it seems clunky, rushed, or just plain boring. I do love being out there in the sights and sounds but have started thinking of plein air work like figure drawing. It's good for my art on many levels, but rarely is a way to produce fine finished work.

Jonas said...

Dammit Cone! These paintings are beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Belinda steered me your way and I totally delighted with your pastel work. The color shifts from warm to cool allow me to feel the Sierras. Truly beautiful work, keep them coming!

Benjamin Plouffe said...

these look great Bill. I always love to look at your blog.

michael mikolon said...

Your recent transition is wonderful, thanks for sharing.

Bondhu said...

Gorgeous landscapes....lovely to see pastel drawings in this age of technology..brilliant

ZaR said...

These blow me away!

marcobucci said...

Each one hits me like a punch in the face, visually. I'm gonna have to read that essay, too.

abhishek singh said...

the write up is as inspiring as ur art
thanks for sharing ur beautiful work n valuable insights:)

B Boylan said...

Bill, I have admired your work from afar since you first started blogging. I don't remember how I found your blog, but sure am glad it's posted. Your work is so refreshing and intuitive! I have tagged your blog and listed it in my blogroll for all to see! Hope you don't mind.
All my best to you!
Brenda

Joni said...

Your pastel work is gorgeous! I enjoyed reading your blog as well as viewing the beautiful artwork!

Sorrentino said...

your work is always so nice to visit! Love the pastels!

dicet said...

fantastic bill!
Studio piece always has a different set up challenges! these look fantastic!

Allen Capoferri said...

Speaking for myself I've found both outdoor and studio work essential to what I want in artistic development. Beautiful work as usual Bill.

Pintora Maniaca said...

I love your artwork!

Alina Chau said...

THese are stunning!

Craig Mackay said...

So inspiring! My dad and I are going to try Pastels next time we go landscape painting at Paramount Ranch. Any good books on the subject that you would recommend? Regardless we'll be crawling all over your blog before we go. Thank you!

Jennifer said...

Dear Bill, I like the way you put the Plein Air Painting and Studio Work together. The post is so impressive that reminds me of the great time I've shared with my late father when we both carried our gears and painted outdoors...
Best wish from Jennifer Lee *.*