5 Tips for Painting Plein Air

The Secrets of Water Colours and Light

Tasmanian watercolour artist Mel Hills in the Tasmanian wildernessI first met Mel Hills at the Tasmanian Craft Fair and instantly fell in love with the creativity, light and colours in her watercolour paintings of Tasmania.

Mel has made her dream of being a full time artist a reality through hard work, talent and practice and generously shares her experience with budding painters. Here you get to meet this inspiring lady and find out about her love for watercolour painting.

What brought you to painting and art?

A watercolour summerschool when I was 15 mentored by Lloyd Rees, taught by Nigel Lazenby as well as lots of books, too much spare time, fantastic light.
I knew early on I needed to combine science and art, it took a while to find out that you could!
Then I ran out of excuses to NOT do it.

Do you find your background in science influences your art?

Science and art are inseparable for me. They are both about exploring and learning about the wonders of the universe. I'm lucky enough to be able to share some of it through my art.

What do you love about painting with water colours?

The magic of never knowing exactly what will happen and working with that. The experimentation. Successfully combining things learnt while experimenting with other techniques to create miraculous results.

I can and do use other media but watercolour painting is more like a whimsical, surprising conversation and it fits in my current space. 

Find these tactile peace bird necklaces and brooch jewellery designs by Creatively Belle at The Rocks Markets or online

Light is a key element in your landscape and seascape paintings, how long do you find you have to capture it when painting plein air?

I'll often paint in the shadows quickly first, kind of like negative space painting. This lets the light sing.

Who inspires you artistically?

this is a very long list..
On a daily basis, the wonderful range of creative, practical people I share markets and galleries with.

On a longer term basis scientific illustrators, and artists such as Bill Cooper was both major inspiration, teacher and friend. I've had great advice and inspiration from Peter Marsack and Peter Slater. I love the work of Lars Jonsson, Kieth Brockie, Tunnicliffe and Peter Scott too.

For watercolour I can blame Lloyd Rees and Nigel Lazenby for starting it all. Roger Murphy, Nita Engle & Jean Haines for intensifying the magic.

What are your 5 tips for painting plein air?

1. Just do it.

2. If you want certain light effects, pre-sketch the scene and come back at the right time.

3. Take back up photos before, during & after 

4. You only need primaries - exactly which shades of these may vary.

5. Less thinking, more doing, it's all learning!

Finding Mel's Work

You can find Mel's work online at Mel Hill's Wild Art , at a range of galleries, markets and fairs. Mel will be returning to the Tasmanian Craft Fair as well.



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