Chasing the Light

Sometimes rules are meant to be broken. In this month’s Hints ‘n’ Tips column John Hughes explains why sometimes it’s not that bad for a plein air painter to chase the light.

Read the article in the May 2011 edition of 15 Bytes.


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  1. Since I have been a longtime student of John’s I probably have more insight into his opinions re. painting outdoors. This article really struck me re. breaking the “rules” in order to make new discoveries and to shake up habits that may lead to predictable paintings. I remember a time I was trying to paint the Cathedral Group in rapidly changing light (my car close by so escape was easy) I decided to release the tension and frustration as I watched my shadows become highlights and then back and forth etc. and just go with it. The result looks more like an abstract but I enjoyed the experience and learned a lot about letting go and relaxing so I keep it prominently displayed in my studio as a reminder of that windy day doing battle with the innocent mountains. I think I was with John that evening (Dimple Dell) after the other students left and the whole world changed magically before us. When that happens to me, I do what John did: immediately check your watch so you can get there the next day hoping against hope that the sky will be the same. I recommend John as a teacher for serious students who want to go to the next level.

  2. Indeed. Not always rules are important, some of them are meant to be broken 😉

  3. “Artistic Expression is a spirit not a method; a pursuit, not a settled goal; an instinct, not a body of rules.”
    Ann Newlands, author of “Canadian Paintings, Prints, and Drawings”
    I believe Newlands was the biographer of Emilie Carr, an artist closely associated with the Canadian Group of Seven.

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