Lorenzo Del Bianco has been a long time illustrator here at Rapid Media, he’s contributed to our sister brands including, Adventure Kayak, and Kayak Angler. On top of that, Lorenzo has spent many a trip painting from shorelines. Here are some tips he’d recommend for painting en plein air.
“I prefer working in watercolour out of doors because it's easier to throw everything I need together quickly. “
“I pack a small paint box; a variety of brushes even though I seem to only ever use the same two brushes; watercolour paper blocks in usually two to three different sizes; charcoal sticks; an X-acto knife and water.”
Most importantly, I asked Lorenzo how he keeps everything secure between the gunnels.
“The paints are in a little paint box and the smaller paper block fits nicely inside of it, also works well as a makeshift easel. The brushes, charcoal and knife are tightly rolled in a bamboo brush holder, a large sheet with pockets that can rolled up for storage and rolled out to be used as a work surface.”
“The larger paper sizes are a bit of a pain but, conveniently, come in a block or stack that is glued on the longer edges, this keeps the paper stretched and resists buckling when wet. The water is in a leak-proof container.”
So, how does he keep it all safe from water outside of the canoe?
“The whole kit goes into a silicone-treated top-loader backpack. The finished pieces get put into plastic zip-loc bags to protect them from accidents. The backpack is also bright orange so that I won't lose it.”
The real challenge comes to play when you have a fully finished piece of art that you need to get home without compromising it. Lorenzo seems to have it all lined up, right down to how fast his artwork dries.
“Because I use watercolour, it dries fairly quickly, which makes transport very easy. This allows me to either place it in a plastic bag or even nestle it between the cover and block of the watercolour pad.”
In all of his years painting plein air, Lorenzo admits he never seems to be as prepared as he’d like to be. But thats okay, if you are resourceful.
“As much as I try to be prepared, I find that I'm never as prepared as I thought I was. Sometimes you have to make due with what you have and be spontaneous! Once, on a kayaking trip to the west coast, my wife reminded me to bring a sketch pad and pencils, but I didn't bother. It didn't take long before my surroundings summoned the muses. I was scrambling for anything to draw on and with. I found some scrap paper and burnt cedar twigs in a fire and then honed the ends into points.”
“After a few sketches, a wonderful couple from Alaska saw this and offered me the use of their watercolour paper and watercolour pencils. From the cockpit of my kayak, I painted a waterfall using these borrowed tools. I simply sketched with the pencils and dipped my finger into the surrounding waters using it as my brush. The trick is to always be inventive.”
When asked what his number one tool would be in the backcountry, Lorenzo had a few nuggets that may work for others, but for him, it’s a good old fashioned notebook and pen, not pencil.
“I thought my number one tool, aside from the obvious, might be a camera to record detail, but I don't really enjoy working from photographs; I find them too factual, too restrictive, too much like work. Perhaps some wine then; a crusty baguette and some old sharp cheese? Very enjoyable but also increases the possibility of balance being tipped more in favour of fun. Then I thought, my notebook, yes!”
“The importance of field sketches and notes; thoughts, feelings, details, memory. Edvard Munch felt that one should not paint as one sees, but instead as one remembers. Note taking helps me remember how I 'felt' at that moment, at those times when I can't stay long enough to finish, but still want to later retain that feeling in my painting. A notebook and a pen. Not a pencil. As one of my college professors once offered, "use a pen, make a commitment.” I always have those two things with me, always.”
Though Lorenzo has been painting and illustrating for as long as he can remember, he admit there is a balance between focus and soaking in the moment. Other times, it’s just a matter of staying comfortable in your element.
“Sometimes I add a little vodka to the water to keep it from freezing if it's cold out, sometimes I add a little vodka to me if it's cold out too”
“Work can be enjoying and enjoyment can be work. Painting out of doors requires a certain discipline and focus, but also demands that you be aware of the beauty of your surroundings. A balance needs to be struck. A nonrestrictive discipline.”
“Another trick I've learned is not to worry about finishing a piece on the spot. Sometimes you only have enough time to capture the emotion or impression of the scene. That's probably the most important thing, though. You can always finesse it later at camp or at home.”
Among many other outstanding accomplishments, Lorenzo has worked with Walt Disney Animation Canada, illustrated two children’s books one of which, Dirty Science, written by Shar Levine and Leslie Johnstone went on to win the Canadian Science Writer’s Associations Outstanding Youth Book Award in 2013, and of course, Lorenzo has worked with us here at Rapid Media.
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