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Pastels en plein air

Richard Suckling is convinced that working en plein air is the best way to capture an outdoor scene, and finds soft pastels particularly suited to the task
The Coastguard Beer Garden, Unison pastels and pastel pencil on Sennelier La Carte Pastel Card, 91⁄2×121⁄2in (24×32cm). On a lovely warm afternoon I could not resist an old boat and the palm trees!

With the convenience of today’s technology available on our digital devices, it can seem odd that plein-air painting is arguably the best way for the landscape painter to grapple with light and nature. For many years I was content to work in the studio from pen drawings, quick sketches and photographs. Because my time at the easel was often too limited, I was convinced that skipping the outdoor experience was acceptable, as long as the paintings I was producing captured my experience and feelings for what I had seen.

However, I realised that something was missing: a real and vibrant connection with the landscape or seascape. I found this aspect difficult to capture unless I spent time immersed in it for a while, making sense of something that is not two-dimensional or glowing from a mega-pixel screen, and without ready-made borders cropped for convenience. Don’t get me wrong, I still regularly use photographs and line drawings for large studio pieces but because I now also make time to paint en plein air, I find this brings a crucial and previously missing element to my work.

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About The Artist

Water-based media enthusiasts will find huge inspiration and masses of great advice from professional artists Hazel Soan, Jake Winkle, Cheryl Culver, Paul Weaver and Marie Antoniou this month. Hazel explains how to translate tones into watercolour on paper to maximise the effects of light and shade in your paintings; Jake reveals the watercolour techniques he recommends to paint texture and patterns in animals; Cheryl demonstrates a coastal scene in acrylics; Paul urges you to try quick studies in line and wash to keep your en plein air skills in tip top condition while Marie demonstrates how to use tube black to best effect in your acrylic paintings! Learn more from Adele Wagstaff about the structure of the lower limbs and feet to help improve your figure painting, and the colours to use for skin tones for your coloured pencil portraits from Alyona Nicklesen. With more features on pastel painting, detailed still lifes, a new technique to try and oil painting demonstrations from Peter Graham and Bob Brandt, whatever your favourite subject matter or medium you're bound to find loads to inspire you in this month's issue!