I am out at the tip of Britannia, in Cornwall to be precise. Together with my family I have rented a small 300 old fishing cottage in a town called Port Isaac. It is a very picturesque area.
Before leaving I packed up some paint to paint some landscapes ”on –the go”. I heard from Nathan Fowkes that he was using watercolours from tubes and then adding them to white gouache to make it thick and covering like acrylics. So I bought a starter set of watercolour tubes and a white gouache, a flat brush and threw it in a plastic bag.
Also I had seen him using a sketchbook with brown dusted paper and I just bought one like that. Not because I thought it had any value except for the artsy feeling it would impose on my sketches done in it. But that sketchbook I hadn’t touched since, because the trip in which I bought it was together with the great Karl Kopinski, and he had, as a friendly gesture made a very very nice drawing in the first page to “break it in”. In reality it had me scared like hell. Every time I opened it to start sketching Kopinskis super “Directly with black marker” drawing looking intimidating out at me. And on top of that: Brown arty paper. I threw that book into the suitcase also. “Haa, Karl, I am doing something completely different than you now. No figures, no cool mean looking characters, just landscapes”.
Here you can see some of the landscapes I did while traveling.
I was right away happy that the paper was not white. It works fantastically with a brown muted down surface when you paint opaque. So my childish insecure and completely private and secret urge to spite Karl Kopinski became a happy accident.
One thing I learned and that I have thought about will be the one thing I take home from this trip is this: The less preparation and packing in and out you have to do to start painting the easier it is. I started having everything I needed in one small plastic bag in my backpack, all the time. The water bottle for drinking was also the water I used for painting. The tissue papers the palette (A small plastic one) and the book. It was always in the backpack.
And this is also why I see the gouache and the small tubes of watercolour to be perfect medium for this. It takes up almost no space and is light and easy to carry around. It meant that I could pull it all out in less than 30 seconds and start painting when the light was right or if I sat down to rest in the middle of a hike.
It sounds like an indifferent thing and to some it might be no point at all, but I struggle with this a lot. I always have 2 voices in my head. One saying “ you should paint now, and draw something now, you lazy bastard. Why are you just sitting here? You could be drawing to become better? All the time! You are lazy you will never improve by not doing anything” this voice is not a happy voice. It is my bad conscience and a voice that will never really let me relax. I do not like that voice but I have learned to live with it.
The other voice says stuff like: you do not have to paint all the time. Just relax, enjoy nature, play some games? You should make a cup of coffee and watch a movie”, but 5 minutes into that and the other voice starts calling me a lazy bastard again and the hamster wheel keeps spinning.
What I am trying to say here is that I struggle with the ability to actually just enjoying the painting just for fun or just for nothing else but the joy of painting. It always has to be for a specific purpose. I sketch figures at a café to be better at drawing real people. I paint trees to be better at trees in a fantasy background; I try to capture clouds so I can use them for setting in a dragon painting. To be honest it is just yet another pressure, And yet another purpose. Something you do to improve something else and not just for its own sake.
It was with that in mind I sat out to do these small landscape paintings in my vacation. And I have to say I had fun without any kind of pressure to accomplice anything. And the most important part of that was the setup. I did not relied on an easel of palette setup in acrylic or oil. The gear allowed me to keep it fun and spontaneous. I think I will carry this setup with me from now on till the book is full. Even when I get back home. To do a small painting on my way to the studio when the light is right.
Lets face it. If it’s not fun it is something you set yourself up to. And I do not want to set myself up to something I love as much as painting.
When I was painting this one, I was down by the Harbour. I got the paints out and sat my backpack down by the sand and climbed the rocks to get a good position. When i was almost done and was working on the cliff to the left in the foreground I spotted something big and green in the corner of my eye floating on the waves in from of me: my backpack. The tide had taken it within just ten minutes. I jumped in and got my wallet and everything in it back to shore…
You were spot on with the competing internal voices and I bet everyone has the same experience with them! You're attitude towards them is awesome and I think that's the key – to decide how you react to the voices and sometimes, not react at all.
I feel inspired now to just paint and draw for fun and play instead of always trying to get something “useful” out of the study.
A very insightful and fun post. Thank you 😀
Wow, these are super nice! They really show 'having a time-out with painting'. Some of the compositions seem somehow relaxed, not overworked and in turn … work even better. Some brilliant colours as well! Good work.
Gosh, these have turned out beautifully, and thank you for sharing your easy solution to painting on location/holidays with pared down gear. Think I will give white gouache a try and dig out my watercolours again on my next trip!
I also identify with those 2 conflicting voices…I think most artists get that. good to recognize them for what they are so you can put them in their corner.
These are super. I'm glad you relaxed enough to have fun and that you were able to rescue your backpack!
These are so great Jesper!!
Thanks for sharing, these are all wonderful. That paper really works well as a base with your color choices so that the water seems to wash over the page and the page blends into the sand. Lovely!
Hey Jesper, I do plein air on occasion and have been looking for a good toned sketchbook that takes well to gouache. It seems like you're enjoying the paper. Do you know the brand?