75 The slow painting movement

THE PLEIN AIR movement has been good for painters and landscape painting. It sparked a renaissance in the art of observation and a return to artistic fundamentals. It helped refocus landscape painter’s attention back to the source of its inspiration. I have benefited artistically by painting in the field and financially from invitations to various art festivals. I commend these festivals for substantially enlarging the number of landscape collectors in America. I plan to continue painting en plein air as well as attending plein air festivals.

However an unintended consequence of the resurgence of plein air painting has been an emphasis, perhaps an overemphasis, on painting as a virtuoso performance for the benefit of spectators. At such events the most prized paintings are often the paintings done the quickest. I don’t criticize these events. They’re a lot of fun. But the trick is to compartmentalize this mental state and relegate it to the proper moment. And the proper moment for a virtuoso performance is not when you’re in the studio struggling to express your inner vision.

Recently I’ve noticed that the mental state I have while performing at plein air events has invaded my studio painting. While painting in the studio I not only habitually intend that each painting be a virtuoso performance, but often that each brush stroke be one as well. The pressure became so great I needed an escape. So I have switched, perhaps for just a season, to a completely different medium. The medium I chanced on is encaustic. There is a roughhewn quality with encaustic reminiscent of the art of woodcut, accompanied by the mental state I associate with sculpting. Encaustic is a medium that can’t be hurried. It is also a medium that doesn’t need to hurry. The drying time is indefinite and I can reactivate the painting surface simply by reheating it.

I will explore this medium for as long as it takes to unshackle myself from the burden of virtuosity. I intend to immerse myself in the encaustic process until painting becomes a kind of meditation and I relearn the art of painting slowly.

Brad Teare © 2011

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Updated: 20th June 2024
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