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En Plein Air With John Orlando Birt.


John painting en plein air.

Painting plein air presents many exciting and unseen challenges, mostly weather based but also finding a suitable place to set up and still be in sight of the subject without becoming a statistic.

I’ve always enjoyed the quest in searching for subjects often walking kilometres thinking it’s time to turn back when around the last corner is a heart stopping wow! Which makes the day and a reward for all of the physical effort. I believe the outdoor studio has guided my art in the direction that I always wanted to travel and I have shared this journey with many other artists such as Max Wilks and Ken Howard here in Australia and Italy. A major bonus when I started painting plein air that I didn’t realise would happen was all of the amazing people that I would meet along the way. I can truly say this has been an enriching and rewarding aspect of painting outside the studio.

I have had a strong attachment to Italy since I was there on assignment with Ghia Design in Turin during 1986. I was designing cars at the time being employed by Ford who owned Ghia. Prior to that I had worked for Ford in Australia and in the USA for Ford, England and Germany. After this I went on assignment for 2 years designing cars with Mazda in Japan, but it was always Italy which drew me back. After my first trip to Venice, one weekend in 1986 changed my life direction opening my eyes to a world which I wanted to interpret and express in my art capturing the magical light and nuances of the reflected light shimmering on the water. Over the subsequent years I have travelled to Italy most years since 1994 painting from Piedmont to Sicily. I do have some favourite locations being Amalfi, Sienna and Tuscany, the Veneto Region and always Venice. My connection with Venice has, over the years, developed with many lasting friendships and business associations.

I have had 3 successful solo exhibitions with Gallery Holly Snapp in San Marco and was invited to join the Concilio Europeo dell’arte, Venice. Subsequently through my exhibitions I conducted watercolour classes at the Scuola Ca Foscari for art conservation students to understand the medium. Through the Dean of the Architectural University Corado Balistreri I was invited over the years to be a guest tutor on drawing and perspective to the second year architectural students. I have been published in the Sandra Harris book “Venice Revisited” Pavilion Publishing.

As a member of the TMPS I exhibit each year with this Society. Sharing my artistic values with a group of like minded artists is very rewarding. I have over the last few years taken 12 painting groups to Italy. I have been mainly based in Venice and travelling to the outer islands as well as towns within the Veneto Region.

My main pursuit has always been to find interesting and intimate subjects away from the crowds but to include the magic of Venice. There are 3 vineyards hidden away in Venice that are not open to the public but because of my contacts we are able to gain access to paint for the day in the Monastery Gardens and other locations. The Main towns in Veneto also offer spectacular alpine backdrops with the Dolomites and are usually sited on rivers which feed into the Venetian Lagoon and make for great subjects. The painting group duration is 18 days, 14 days painting with weekends free. I have gained much local knowledge over the past 30 years in and around Venice also Italy in general. Painting locations depending on the weather conditions is a very important consideration and of course the time of day, looking into or with the light.

My painting has evolved during my life as an artist, something that I enjoy looking back on as my unique artistic journey. Importantly for me it’s always been about the light, often trekking many kilometres seeking subjects to paint but also the people whom I’ve met along the way creating many amazing memories which I will always value and have added to my experience of painting.

My motto with painting has always been not to paint what I see but what I feel.

John Orlando Birt