Although not instructions for actually piloting a magic carpet, this activity might carry you to some beautiful places.
With a humble nod to those impressionist painters like Monet, Van Gogh, and Cassatt who sat in the heat of the day to paint the views in front of them, we’re calling this activity Plein Air au Maison (“Open Air in the House”).
If canceled travel plans or dashed hopes for a weekend getaway to the mountains or the beach has you feeling cooped up, why not bring those sweeping views to YOU?
Very simply put, in this activity you’re going to find an image of a beautiful place and get lost in it for a while; by drawing, sketching, painting, doodling, or whatever approach strikes your fancy.
WARNING: This is not an art lesson, it’s a magic carpet ride. It is a means to keep exploring and finding your own way and your own places in the world, even from the confines of your own home.
• an image of a view that somehow grabs you
• paper (any blank surface will do – even the inside of a finished cereal box)
• pencil and eraser
• any source of ink (pens, markers…)
• any source of color (crayons, color pencils, markers, paints…)
Find an image of a place that somehow grabs you.
If you’re new to drawing or painting pick an image with clear bold lines or sections without too much busy detail. Distant mountain ranges and views of the sea-sky horizon and coast can offer this.
Possible Image Sources:
books, ebooks, your phone, wall calendars, magazines, travel brochures
Putting your pencil to paper, lightly sketch the borders you’ll be creating your landscape inside.
Look at your chosen image and decide how big you want to make it. Will it be square? Rectangular? Round? Remember, the point of this is the moment in time you’ll spend connecting with this beautiful place. You’ll want the amount of space you use to fit your own process. Too small and it will be over before you can reach “the zone”. Too big and you might be sick of it before you have the pleasure of finishing. Find your “just right”.
Letting your mind sink into or synch with the beauty and the innate power of a place in nature can be a direct act of rebellion against circumstances that might be limiting you. We might be confined into physical distancing and having our movements in the world limited somehow but our imaginations cannot be bound by anything. Big, or small, or even microscopic.
So, here is a magic carpet. Fly it to your mountain range and soar above the peaks. Notice the crooked tree on the ridge, or how the river flows around the bend out of sight. Or take your carpet to coast in the air with the pelicans skimming above the big blue sea into the sunny, salt-aired horizon.
Use your pencil to lightly sketch out the most basic regions or sections of your image.
Notice in what portion of the image the sky ends and the land begins. Be ready to erase and adjust the visual landmarks as you go.
Look at your chosen image and notice its sections. Relax your mind and just let your eyes take it in for a moment. Erase from your thoughts, the “meaning” of your image and see only its sections of shape and shade in relation to each other.
Find landmarks that connect one section to another. How much space does the sky take up? Are there general horizontal lines? Where are they in relation to each other?
With your pencil or your color sources, begin to add shading and color to your sketch.
Sit for a moment and gaze again at your original image. Begin to look for and notice the details of shade – dark to light and the shades of the colors. Relax your mind and try to let go of the definition of what you’re looking at. See it. Take it in. Quiet the voice saying “That is a tree on that hill”. See the contrasting shades of blues, grays, purples, etc. See the vertical lines’ differing lengths.
Form a direct link from what your eyes are taking in to what you are creating on your own page.
Take creative license as you fill in the details of your beautiful place. Make it yours.
Your experiences, your perspectives, your skill sets as a whole are absolutely unique in this world – and are therefore intrinsically valuable. Your depiction of this place that somehow calls to you will be YOUR interpretation of it.
The time you spend (re)creating this place makes it a part of you, and you a part of it. Your sketch or drawing or painting will serve as a souvenir of the peaceful moment in time you spent in your place with it and in it while really seeing it.
This activity is not an art class on how to crank out a perfect landscape. It’s about spending time getting to know a beautiful place through looking at its details closely enough to recreate it on paper.
This is about what you see and what you discover to be meaningful and noteworthy. You can do this again and again and expand your world with every “place.” Find a view that speaks to you, pick up your pencil, grab some paper and get yourself lost on your own magic carpet ride to somewhere beautiful.
Find more ways to learn, create and share this summer by checking out other blog posts and activities, here.