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Digital Subscriptions > The Artist > February 18 > Urban excitement

Urban excitement

Sarah Manolescue loves the challenges and the immediacy of painting vibrant, busy scenes. Here she describes a typical plein-air oil painting, with her top tips for success
Thick Coats and Coffee, oil on board, 113¼×233¼in (30×60cm)

I have had various ‘muses’ in my painting career, but none more exciting or inspiring than the bustling urban street scene. Until a few years ago, I was strictly a studio oil painter working from photographs and watercolour sketches.

When someone first suggested that I try oil painting en plein air, I dismissed the idea but after one session, I was hooked. Yes, it is challenging but the satisfaction I glean from the process far outweighs any negatives (and don’t get me started on the peculiar interactions I have had with people on the street). You are reacting to the scene in front of you with freshness and immediacy, recording directly and with emotion. Plein-air painting has taught me so much about the art of suggestion – it’s putting just enough on the canvas so that it makes sense to the eye. From a distance, it’s all there, but up close it’s just shapes and brushmarks.

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About The Artist

Welcome to our February issue with our extra 16-page guide to art courses and holidays for 2018, including Kevin Scully's article on what to take into consideration and what to pack to make the most of the opportunities offered by a structured course away from home. Our artists also offer plenty of ideas and inspiration for painting a variety of subjects in a broad range of media, including pastel pencil animals, a horse in watercolour, trees and an orchard in pastels, mixed-media collages inspired by old buildings, a photorealist self-portrait in oils and more. In addition, Hazel Soan starts her new three-part series on light and shade in watercolour by explaining how to train your eye to see and interpret tone, Judi Whitton demonstrates how to mix and exploit a wide range of lively greys in your watercolour paintings, while Paul Gadenne shows why and how acrylics can be the key to achieving greater spontaneity in your work. Be inspired and enjoy trying some new ideas under the guidance of our fantastic team of contributing artists!