Mid-winter, on the edge of an ancient swamp, paintbrush in hand

Anglesea River Plein Air

It’s mid winter here now, and although a pretty mild part of the planet to experience winter, it still gets a little chilly to the point that most people avoid spending too long outside. This day though, was a cracking warm winters one, with the sun providing a welcome little burst of warmth, barely a breath of wind and clear blue sky. My view of the upper reaches of the Anglesea River made for the ideal location for a spot of plein air painting.

Painting en plein air

Anglesea riverI’ve been planning to get out and paint in the open air for a while, to work on capturing the atmosphere and presence of a place in the moment. Painting en plein air is a French expression meaning “in the open air,” and refers to the act of painting outdoors with the artist’s subject in full view.

The challenge of working with changing light and a landscape that feels far too expansive to condense onto a small panel, with a hand full of brushes and a selection of oil colours was as daunting as it exciting.

Breaking down the composition

And focusing on the elements I decided were important to include, I couldn’t help but reflect on my time spent in this place and how it had played a part in my growing up and exploring the bush around our family home. The back lots of the Anglesea river, around the boundaries of the Alcoa power station, horse paddocks (now Primary School), and one time BMX track (now Parks Vic depot.) There’s a familiarity of place but a new way of seeing and capturing this environment in paint, in an instant.

Shifting light

Anglesea river paintingAlthough minimal – threw up more opportunities to add interest and additional atmospheric effects to the painting, than challenges I expected might be presented. A pair of kayakers touring the river, and a guy looking for a good spot to wet a fishing line (I assume) were my only human interactions during the session, I’d tucked myself away, purposely in a very quiet crook of the river, although I think I can probably find more isolation in that area if I try.

Anglesea river plein air oil painting

Continuing work back in the studio

Happy with the painting as a starting point, I’ve taken a few photo’s for further reference and plan to revisit this piece in the studio in the next couple of weeks. To apply a little critical reflection on what does and does not work and see where I can push this little painting.

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