I will be the first to admit that, when it comes to painting “en plein air” (outdoors), I am a fair weather painter. Days when it’s even mildly chilly find me sitting cozily in font of a computer monitor, or the in the comfort of a heated studio indulging in the convenience of photographic reference.
That doesn’t stop me from admiring the determination of some dedicated plein air painters, and being outright amazed at others.
Suncage (pseudonym of UK painter Jon Hall) is in the latter category. He is astonishingly dedicated to painting outdoors regardless of circumstance; painting in wind, rain, cold, and all manner of unpleasant conditions.
His site and blog are a little short on introductory information, but some of this dedication may have come from a challenge he set for himself that he called “The Limners Contract“. (“Limner” is defined as someone who describes something by painting or drawing. It comes from a root meaning illuminator, from which we also get illustrator. Limner also can refer to ornamental painters in the American colonies.)
Suncage’s Limner’s contract was essentially a contract with himself to complete paintings from life, on site, every day for a year. In the course of the project he created over 500 painted sketches and chronicled the endeavor with photographs and video.
His site includes a record of other painting projects, including ICE, the Robert Stephenson Awards in which he is painting a dozen icons of civil engineering in the country’s North East.
Last December, Suncage entered an open challenge form London’s National Gallery Podcast to create a piece of audio based on a picture in the National Gallery. He created the winning piece based on his impressions of the thoughts Pissarro may have had while painting a winter landscape in Fox Hill, Upper Norwood during his stay in London. Suncages’ own video about the piece, in which he intersperses the audio piece with his description of his own experience painting in the same location, may be a little confusing unless you’ve seen the original National Gallery Podcast in context (scroll down to view the Podcast. The segment on Fox Hill is a bit past halfway in the video.)
Suncage has provided numerous video accounts of his outdoor painting experiences. Those of you who, like myself, have seen one too many PowerPoint demos, may blanch as his overindulgence in iMovie/Keynote style video transitions, but the stories he has to tell about painting on location stand on their own.
He also has a preference for caging his voice in an echo effect and submerging it in electronica. Personally, I find these unnecessary distractions from his otherwise fascinating stories about painting on location and the challenges he has set himself in his desire to work under all conditions.
Of particular interest to me is his 12 Quick Exercises in painting the same scene repeatedly, as Monet did. Suncage works with this idea in multiple quick sketches on the same day, and in repeated visits to the same scene on different days, spaced both days apart and seasons apart. Within that process, he works in many different approaches to the application of tone and value (images above).