Just as many people fear being stuck in a cubicle for much of their working life, Nanoose Bay painter Brent Lynch said, as a young man, he worried about being locked in a studio.
But plein air painting — where painters go outside and paint what they see in real life — was the key to his escape.
“Even when I was an illustrator, I would always talk the client into sending me to whatever I was painting… I’d go out and get some information live, direct,” said Lynch.
Over the years, Lynch has enjoyed more and more his process of travelling the Island to sketch and paint what he sees, and then returning to the studio to try and capture that energy in a larger work.
With his latest exhibition called Exterior Paint taking place at TOSH from Aug. 7 to Sept. 1, Lynch is looking to share that process.
He has about 35 pieces on display: many smaller studies done in the field, and some larger works created from those kinds of studies.
Lynch’s paintings (mostly landscapes with some portraits) have a sort of graphic appeal, no doubt drawn from his many years as a commercial artist. Lynch said he focuses on strong but simple compositions, and finding the movement in the lines of what he sees.
“This show is actually an accumulation of about five years of plein air studies I’ve done, along with a bunch of big canvasses too to help explain the process,” said Lynch. “I’d like for people to go on this thinking journey with me when they see the studies and they see the big paintings.”
For Lynch, the interest in plein air painting began with an interest in life drawing, and also grew out of an interest just being outside.
“Part of me was kind of freaked out when I was young that I’d be locked in a studio for the rest of my life, so (plein air painting) gave me an opportunity to get out.”
But the benefits of working outside go beyond just being in an environment that Lynch prefers. “It’s more stimulating for me because I’m having that direct contact,” he said. “I’m actually involved in the phenomena… I come up with better ideas based on the experience.”
This sort of direct study of landscapes is more classical, notes Lynch, but that’s not to say he shuns technology. Photos make up part of his process, but mostly in catching detail, he said. And while there may be wonderful photos of a given place that Lynch wants to paint, he said he leaves those alone.
“I never use great photography because it is just art itself,” he said.
While the internet and digital photography can give artists lots to work with, Lynch said it can also limit artists. “Technology can be a bit of a… tyrant, I guess,” he said. “It dictates to you — it can.”
But, by getting out into the landscape you’re painting, and having to deal with environment, better ideas and more energy can come about.
“A landscape to me is not just a landscape, it’s more of a psychological record,” said Lynch. “It tells both stories. It tells me how stormy it was that day, how wicked it was or how beautiful it was. It also tells me how I feel, and that relationship between the two, (that’s) where the artwork comes from” he said.
“When I’m out there… I’m thinking about the mortgage and the kids and that kind of thing. It might be a more ‘You’re holding on way too tight’ kind of study, and other times I feel free and good things happen… I just like to get out there and see what happens. And that process, you know, I’m very rarely disappointed, although painting is like golf. You think you’ve got it all together and the game goes all to hell.”
Lynch’s Exterior Paint exhibit runs from Aug. 7 to Sept. 1 at TOSH (The Old School House Arts Centre, 122 Fern Rd. West, Qualicum Beach). For more info, go to www.theoldschoolhouse.org.