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  • Helen Grimbleby

Capture the World Around You: A Guide to Outdoor Painting

I am a few days back from an art retreat in the beautiful Brecon Beacons, Wales.

The benefits of time away and expert instruction

Last year was the first time I had ever attended an art retreat and it was a truly wonderful experience.

I was able to spend lots of time with interesting people engaged in true conversation on a wide range of subjects from the arts to science to politics & more.

I was also able to spend lots of time outside in nature, contemplating landscape. Although I faced some challenges beginning to work outside and discovering where my art skills could benefit from some development, it was so good and the artistic growth that followed was incredible.

Last year was such a great experience that initially, I hesitated to sign up for this year. I had a ridiculous notion that the experience could only go downhill. I realised I was thinking about it all the wrong way. The point of going was to learn so if I stayed open and curious, the lessons would come.

Sure enough, the experience was fabulous this year and I have much to take forwards.

I thought I might share some of what we did and learned over a couple of updates as it may be helpful to you too.

Working in Inks

We worked for the first day in inks and water-soluble graphite. Starting with preparing some backgrounds in the studio, then taking these out into the landscape to draw and paint into with the inks creating layers. We worked mainly into a wet surface with both media but experimenting with wet on dry also to see what kinds of marks we could make.

This simplified the process of translating huge amounts of information from an outside landscape taking colour out of the equation allowing us to concentrate on tonal values and with two inks just considerations of warm and cool tones.

I was very at home with this media having begun my adult artistic journey with watercolours.

Kit Tip!

I learned a valuable lesson or two about inking outdoors and maybe I can save you some trouble.

Screw the lid on properly and think about what you carry ink in just in case!

A fairly big leak stained mostly just my “pencil case” and slightly marked the inside of my backpack. Its not too easy to clean up in the field.

The response of my fellow artist when I came back to the studio, however, was perfect, “Well it’s a lovely colour”.

It brings to mind the Japanese principle of Kintsugi. The concept of embracing and celebrating imperfections and mends rather focusing on negativity, missing pieces or that which was lost.

It seems fitting then that as part of my review of my outdoor art kit, I have treated myself to a new ink pen. It’s Japanese!

I also now, carry my ink bottles in a small plastic box to contain any future leaks.

I will share some more of my kit next time.

Thank you for reading!

Helen x


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