9

Apr

From Field to Finish

West on location, en plein aire, in Sheldon, S.C. getting ready to paint the allee.

West on location, en plein aire, in Sheldon, S.C. getting ready to paint the allee.

There is a lot of talk about plein aire painting, but what exactly does it mean? Borrowed from the French, to paint ‘en plein aire’ literally translates to ‘open air,’ it refers to painting outside, on location, in all kinds of weather. Another way to say this, also in French, is ‘peinture sur le motif,’ or painting of the object or what the eye actually sees. Many artists paint this way, going from start to finish on location. It produces vibrant work full of light and motion. But it can be hard to paint a larger painting outdoors, not the least of the problems being securing a larger canvas from gusts of wind.

 'Pienza' watercolor on paper painted en plein aire on the hilltops in Italy an example of a watercolor sketch

‘Pienza’ watercolor on paper painted en plein aire on the hilltops in Italy an example of a watercolor sketch

West Fraser has spent many hours painting outside in front of his subjects in all kinds of weather. Think rainy nights, or windy days on the beach, or hot, steamy, august afternoons where the light shimmers on the water and the gnats are out in force. Plein aire painting is not always comfortable, but it is always an adventure.

 'Looking to Pienza' Italy 22 x 46 inches oil on linen finished studio painting based on plein aire sketches

‘Looking to Pienza’ Italy 22 x 46 inches oil on linen
finished studio painting based on plein aire sketches

In the last few years West has developed a system of using a combination of sketches from life—pencil, watercolor, and oil—and photographs to create large studio paintings.

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From the field–the ‘bones’ of ‘The Road Less Traveled’ started on location in Sheldon, S.C.

Although he calls them sketches, or studies, some of them are just as detailed as his studio paintings, and certainly don’t look like any kind of sketch I’ve ever seen.

Personally, I think these paintings represent the culmination of a career of painting, of West finally finding a balance between the rendering of an image and the spontaneity of plein aire.

The results of en plein aire are as I said before vibrant, full of motion, and light filled. But as you can see, the results of West’s studio work are also vibrant, full of motion, and light filled. West takes his queues from nature, but creates his masterpiece from a lifetime of observation and the skill developed during a lifetime of painting.

'The Road Less Traveled' Sheldon, S.C. 24 x 30 inches, oil on linen Finished product, from the field to the finish

‘The Road Less Traveled’ Sheldon, S.C. 24 x 30 inches, oil on linen Finished product, from the field to the finish

For more information on available paintings, please go to www.helenafoxfineart.com and don’t forget to sign up for the gallery newsletter. ‘Painting the Southern Coast:The Art of West Fraser’ USC Press hits bookstores in July. Order your copy today!

West Fraser

West Fraser

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Represented in Charleston by Helena Fox Fine Art - 106-A Church St, Charleston, SC
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