Abby Leon, Paradigm Gallery Director
Plein air painting is the art of leaving the confinement of the studio and becoming one with nature’s landscapes in the company of a palette and paintbrush! This unscripted art form allows for impromptu yet decisive moments. Painting outdoors can feel carefree; but, it comes with challenges due to the ever-changing light and environmental conditions. So, an artist still needs to be orderly and purposeful in their approach. Artist Gwen Gutwein has conquered the skills of capturing the here and now, allowing each viewer to feel as if they were part of her daily milestones. Since graduating from Indiana University in the early 80s Gwen has become a successful artist, achieving many acknowledgements and awards. She has shown her artwork in galleries and museums throughout the United States, including here both in the Paradigm Gallery and the Museum galleries. We hope you had the opportunity to check out her past exhibitions: Gwen Gutwein: Barns of Indiana in 2012 and Heritage Barns of Indiana: An Artist’s Passion by Gwen Gutwein in 2015. As the FWMoA recently celebrated the month (August) of en plein air painting with the Fort Wayne Artists Guild, we wanted to keep the festivities going with Gwen “in the open air” in this post!
“My journey through life as an artist is continually evolving. Each painting is an expression of what I see and feel in front of me at each painting moment in time. My goal is to meld the visual subject matter with the mood, character, and beauty I feel. This may require a particular temperature or value in my hues. It may also require an adjustment in my approach to paint application. None of this is established ahead of time. Each scene or subject matter requires me to open myself to what is before me and make it part of me. Only after this is accomplished can the process flow through my experience, my heart, and into my hands. Sharing the results of my work is the important next step. I wish to stir in those experiencing my work a different perspective of seeing and feeling. This accomplished, I have enhanced and enriched our world one viewer at a time.”
Here’s a look into my process:
Before the canvas and paints are pulled out and prepared, other very important steps are taken, the first of which is finding my subject matter.
Second step is considering the perspective and angle that will best portray the mood and character I wish to highlight in my painting. My chosen subject may be best expressed during early morning light or late afternoon. Whichever it may be, deciding this will set my painting time frame and schedule. Maybe I need to sit on the ground to paint the perspective that will best express my chosen subject.
Once the format size is determined, I will often tint my canvas or panel. If I expect to paint early in a cool morning light, I may choose to tint with a rose tone, shown below.
Often for late afternoon paintings I will tint my canvas or panel with a gold ochre tone. If a season is strongly expressed in a color, such as autumn, I may choose an overall warm color as an undertone.
Sometimes I use a canvas or panel that is coated with a mid-value gray to assist in building darks and lights. A value scale is always handy for reference.
With a juicy mix of a darker neutral, I will quickly sketch my layout onto my format. A rag can easily assist in moving lines and shapes, as needed, to develop a good working composition.
Building the painting from far distance to near distance is next. During this early painting process a number of decisions are made, such as placement of shadow shapes and moving objects, to best express my subject.
Because painting plein air is a race with the sun, I often snap a quick photo of my subject while the shadows are where I want to express them. Next is mixing color notes! I may mix several colors for the sky and place those marks on my canvas. I will do the same for all my objects, including shadows and sunlit grasses and trees. This insures that, if I need to finish in my studio or if by chance the painting is abruptly halted, I have what I need to finish.
I generally start with my major subject and build my painting out from there. If I don’t finish with every square inch of the painting outside, I have my color notes in place in the distant sky and in the foreground for finishing in my studio.
Mendenhall Family Barn
Gwen has spent over twelve years traveling and creating over 185 “portrait” paintings of historic barns throughout Indiana and across the nation! Recently, this collection of historic barn portrait paintings was compiled into a beautifully produced book: HERITAGE BARNS OF INDIANA. Each barn’s unique story, a few photographs of distinction, and more accompany each painting in this beautifully published hardbound book.
Collections from these historic barn paintings are currently being exhibited at venues throughout Indiana, along with other exhibits and book-signing events.
Her newest plein air masterpiece, below, created at this past weekend’s Kekionga Paint Out won best of show and is also on sale at Paradigm!
Visit the Paradigm Gallery to pick up a copy of HERITAGE BARNS OF INDIANA or to see more of Gwen Gutwein’s paintings: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-6pm; Thursday 10am-8pm; Sunday 12pm-5pm