Saturday, January 4, 2014

Hooking En Plein Air

William Mitton Covered Bridge, Albert County, NB

It's a new year and a time to start on a new learning curve. Late in 2013 Lori La Laberge ( invited other artists to join with her and become part of a group of 'plein air' rug hookers. Thanks to Lori we now have our own web site with photos of our completed pieces, our bios and the invitation for other rug hookers to join us. Take a look at to see what we have been up to.

Hooking 'en plein air' is a bit of a challenge, especially for me at this time of year. It is cold outside and we have piles and piles of snow that came very early in the season. For these conditions it's acceptable to sit inside and hook what you see out of the window. I also will go to a site, sit in the car, make a sketch with notations and then roughly colour the sketch in with watercolour or coloured pencils. I then transfer the sketch to the linen backing, revisit the site to check what I have chosen for colours and work on the piece in the studio.  Sometimes it takes more than one trip to the site to be sure the light or colours are right.

When the weather is nice, it's very relaxing to work outside. Equipped with a comfortable chair, I make the sketch, colour it in and make further colour notes. After putting the design on the linen and choosing what I think I will need for the wool or fibre, its outside again to begin hooking. 

If you work outside at different times of day, it's difficult to capture the light and colours as the shadows keep shifting. My way around this is to try and work for an hour or so at the same time each day. It may take a few days to complete the work, depending on the size of the piece. Another tip is to work small - the largest that I have done 'en plein air' to date is about 8 by 12 inches. Like many famous 'plein air' artists such as the Canadian Group of Seven, these smaller works can be used as studies for larger works that are later completed in the studio.

I have attempted to paint with watercolours 'en plein air' and became frustrated with the quick drying paint. On windy or warm sunny days it was impossible to control things - never mind that working with watercolour is a challenge unto itself! Hooking 'en plein air' is much, much better!

November on the Petitcodiac Marsh