Virtual Art Academy

Thailand Episode 1: Thailand Wetlands Plein Air Painting

Cat. No. 1353 Thailand Wetlands - 24cm x 17cm - Oil on Linen - 2020 - thailand_1500
Boldbrush Fab 15% winner

Update: Thank you to everyone who voted for my plein air painting in the August 2020 BoldBrush Painting Competition, to make it one of the FAV15% winners.

Cat. No. 1353 Thailand Wetlands - 24cm x 17cm - Oil on Linen - 2020 - thailand_1500 plein air
Thailand Wetlands
Cat. No. 1353 Thailand Wetlands - 24cm x 17cm - Oil on Linen - 2020 - thailand_1500 plein air
Thailand Wetlands

Cat. No. 1353 Thailand Wetlands – 24cm x 17cm – Oil on Linen – 2020

I painted one afternoon at some wetlands near the art retreat where I stayed during my plein air painting trip to Thailand last year. It was an absolutely wonderful place to have as a base to work from, with plenty of interesting plein air subject matter very close.

Why this painting works

I wanted to share with you some of the ideas that led to the painting being chosen for the FAV15%. The reason it was chosen was because it stood out. Now, there is really no secret or mystery to this, anyone can do it. The most important thing to understand is that there are two reasons that make a painting work and that make it stand out. These two things are quite independent of each other. They are:

  1. The underlying abstract design of the painting―its color harmony, the design of the major shapes, the distribution of the patches of color. I call this the Visual Music of a painting. The Visual Music works on two levels. One is when the painting is viewed from a distance. In this case the emphasis is on the green gray, pink complementary color contrast, and contrast of saturation (see three components of color). The other component of Visual Music is when the painting is viewed close up. This means that the brushstrokes are very important. This is because it is the brushwork that is mostly responsible for the abstract design when viewed close up.
  2. The emotional content of the painting―the feeling you get when looking at a painting. The most important idea here is to maintain a clear focus on what the painting is all about. It does not have to be complicated. Here, the painting is all about the simple beauty of a tree standing on an island in a lily filled lake. When looking at the painting, you can feel the beauty and peace I felt at the spot.

If you keep these two simple ideas in mind when you are painting, you will find that your paintings have far more impact on your viewers, and you too will start to get your artwork noticed and win competitions.

Working out the composition

I took several photos of the wetlands, both landscape and portrait mode, as well as distance and close up shots, in order to help me narrow down the ideas for a composition. I was very happy with the resulting painting. But it took quite a few of planning sketches to get the final composition. I did not just go with my first idea.

About Thailand and Elsie’s Art Retreat

Elsie, the owner of the art retreat where I stayed, is absolutely wonderful and does everything to make your stay both productive but fun. She’s not only a good artist, but a fantastic cook too! I have never had such good breakfasts or eaten so many delicious fresh mangoes – all from her garden! I stayed at her plein air painting for almost two months with her and her sons. It was just a great experience. It’s a good place too for running plein air painting workshops as students can stay there and she has a large studio on site, so I hope to go back and run a plein air workshop from there at some time in the future. Hopefully next time where there is no virus running amok!

For more information

For more information on some of the plein air techniques I used in this painting see:

See more award winning plein air paintings


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