By Bonnie Gangelhoff; Photos by Dan Piassick
What do you prefer about plein-air painting over creating landscape works in the studio? The advantage of plein-air work is that it uses all of the senses at once. To me, it’s the ultimate painting experience. You are fighting both the elements and time, so all of your decisions have to be concrete and you have to move quickly. It’s a test of your ability to recognize what is going on in front of you and put it in a painting in a way that is appealing to the public and yourself. In the studio, you have too much time to manipulate and change things. All the great painters have gone outside to paint. It’s part of painting history. You feel like you are part of all the great painters who have come before you—the impressionists, John Singer Sargent, Norman Rockwell.
Why do you enjoy capturing rural Texas? My grandmother got me interested in painting. She lived in Boerne, just outside of San Antonio, in a 14-room hotel my grandfather bought through the GI Bill. When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I used to go out and paint with my grandmother and a group of women in the Texas Hill Country. That’s were I learned to paint, and it has stayed with me. Last year I started painting structures—buildings, barns—and sometimes farm animals to give my works more of a sense of life. When I’m painting barns, I like to think about who built them, why they chose to put them where they did, and the kind of life that went on inside of them.
What are some of the challenges of painting on location? The number-one challenge is the weather. I’m forced inside in August when it’s 100 degrees outside. Also, the light can change every 15 minutes. The sun may move behind the clouds. And then there are bugs, like red ants. At this time of year I cover myself with sulfur from the knees down to protect myself from bugs. I’ve also had encounters with buffalo, bears, elk, and herds of longhorns.
What are your most memorable experiences while painting on location? Anytime I go out with my friends from the Outdoor Painters Society—David Bates, Bruce Peil, Bob Rohm, and Kaye Franklin. The plein-air experience can be lonely, but this is a time of camaraderie. We paint and then go back to the cabin at night and look at our paintings and critique them. The creative process is fun.
Do you think the public has any misconceptions about plein-air painting? That it is easy. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. It is difficult, and it requires all of your attention. Often at the end of the day, I am really worn out. You have to be 100 percent focused for about two hours. It’s an amazing process to go through.
He is represented by: Southwest Gallery, Dallas, TX; Collectors Covey, Dallas, TX; Riverbend Fine Art, Marble Falls, TX; NanEtte Richardson Fine Art, San Antonio, TX; Port A Gallery, Port Aransas, TX; www.rustyjonesstudio.com.
Featured in June 2008