Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Plein Air Studies Inspire Studio Works

When I travel and paint en plein air, I keep my studies rather small, 8x10-11x14.  This seems to fit my needs.  I suppose I could just carry a camera but, I find the absorption of the experience is what carries my creative energy to my larger works.  It's about the process of doing for me as opposed to the end product expected.  I do use photographic reference on occasion so, I'm not an "I paint only from life" artist (see my last blog titled "Ravens"). 

So, why would I just enlarge a painting that I'd already done?  The answer is pure and simple: the plein air painting was a reaction and depiction of my environment of that particular day without much creative thought.  A lot of what I do in the studio is creatively-driven as opposed to technique-driven which is what plein air seems to demand from most.  I love the creative process to art and consider techniques only the tools of expression.  I do not feel that technical wizardry is the end within itself although, I do appreciate fine craftsmanship in all disciplines.  Sometimes craft is confused with art.     

As some of you may already know, I was invited by artist James Moore to join him and a few other artists on a painting trip to Glacier National Park this past June.  I was completely blown away by the beauty of Glacier and extended my stay by three weeks.  I had completed 22 paintings on location which will be featured in my upcoming visual chap book: Alfred Currier: Glacier National Park 101.  This book will be released in February 2012 at a show of this work at Howard Mandville Gallery, Kirkland, Washington.  Included in this show will be several large paintings that have been inspired by the plein air studies.  Seen below are three finished works with a few start photographs to show my process.

plein air study for large works
Goose Island was so magnificent!  It was also a tour bus stop that netted no fewer than 100 tourists looking right over my shoulder.  I'm used to occasional on-lookers but, this was too much.  I was so surprised to see this little study when I returned home.  I thought is was going to be a disaster but, it was one of my favorites.  The large painting became an exploration of fragmented color.

"Goose Island" Glacier National Park, MT 24x30

Many Glacier was one of the windiest paintings of the trip.  I hid behind a little tree and stacked rocks on my French easel 'til I thought the legs would break.  Luckily my 40 year old friend held up.  I searched for subject matter in this painting but, I didn't realise that it was the atmospheric perspective that drew me in when I started this large piece.

"Many Glacier"  Glacier National Park, MT 24x30

"Lake Saint Marys" Glacier National Park, MT 24x30
Lake Saint Marys was my first plein air painting at East Glacier.  The incredible light made this a no-brainer. 

Seldom do I like my paintings when I finish them because I'm too close to them and all I see is the struggle.  I have to put them in the rack to season a while.  After a few weeks, I can pull them out and see them as others do, removed from the process.


  1. Another valuable blog, as usual.

    I especially like St Mary's and mountain paintings don't usually get my attention.

    I can see why the raven paintings are "flying" off the walls. They're the best I've ever seena and I've seen alot of raven paintings. No comparison.

    Good luck with the new book. I'll be looking forward to seeing.


  2. Interlocking shapes, vibrant color and texture...everything I love in a painting. Looking forward to your new book!

  3. Thanks for sharing these wonderful paintings . I was lucky enough to see the plein air work. Sorry for drooling in your studio. You've out done yourself with the larger studio paintings. Aloha, Michael

  4. I absolutely adore ravens and crows. You described them beautifully ... both with words and paint. Fantastic.


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