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November 07, 2018

Raymond Helgeson's plein air painting 2018 Fall Exhibition is now open at Landscapes and seascapes of Spain, Scotland and Croatia. Original oil paintings from 3 very different locations.

inspired by the lush physical beauty of raw paint

The whole purpose of this blog is to share with you, the viewer, how I see the world as a painter and how I choose to make images in paint to convey how I feel about what I see. In turn, I hope to inspire you to travel to these places yourself, or pick up a paint brush and have a go at it or just be inspired by the lush physical beauty of raw paint!

I present to you a visual trip to 3 very distinct locations, each one begging to be my favorite. And, yes, while I am there in these very special places, a part of me chooses each spot as my favorite. Do we really have to pick just one?


 Plein Air Paintings of Spain, Scotland and Croatia now at Raymond Helgeson .com


playa mexota plein air painting by Raymond Helgeson .com

broad juicy brush strokes - the colors of fire

We start in Spain, along the Cantabrian coast. Much has been written about the unique light in the south of France, and rightly so, it does love the eyes. But there are many spots that can dazzle them as well. For me, the area around the Ria de Ribadeo, one of the 7 estuaries in the province of Galicia which forms the border between the provinces of Asturias and Galicia is one such place which keeps calling me back to create some plein air paintings. At the moment, I am enjoying a "café con leche" at my favorite hangout in Tapia de Casariego, as the sun is starting to paint the sky with broad, juicy brush strokes - the colors of fire against a turquoise backdrop. The clouds in shadow are a muted, dusty, purple gray. As this rapidly evolving scene unfolds before my eyes, I hear the loud drum beats of the espresso machine's used grounds being forced out of holder by the barista. As I have spent more time in here finishing my web site than out painting, I am used to those sounds. I'm afraid if I don't move on soon, as planned, any day, when I enter, they're all going to shout "Norm" in unison (a "Cheers" reference for those who didn't get it). Back to the light: I find the colors here, to be intense, but not overly chromatic. I think it is just how the clean morning and afternoon light here bathes everything in a unifying warm glow that just works perfectly together.

Asturias seascape oil painting by Raymond Helgeson .com
dramatic coast with bold shapes and shadows

One of the most unique features of the area is the "Playa As Catedrais", aka Cathedral Beach. This UNESCO World Heritage site is in Galicia, about 11 miles from Tapia de Casariego, here in Asturias. It is so popular that entrance is limited to 5,000 visitors per day in July and August. Twice each day, the waters recede to reveal a pristine beach with no footprints. It is a very special feeling to be one of the first people to arrive at the farthest portion of the beach where the most impressive rock formations stand, especially during sunrise, when most are sound asleep. But this is a fleeting feeling, as soon others will arrive, trying to get their best Instagram posed selfies they can with this impressive backdrop. And, depending on the tides and the height of the waves, this sculpted clean sand will all be under pounding surf in a few hours time, cleansing all evidence of our treks over the porous surface. The rocks here on the Cantabrian Seacoast are sedimentary, layer upon layer of rock which is now at all angles, even vertical. This makes for a dramatic coast with bold shapes and shadows. This is the green belt of Spain at the very northern edge of the country. This is not the climate we usually think of when we picture Spain with its muted, warm palette, radiating heat. This is a land with the Cantabrian Sea to the north and where the mountains are just a few miles to the south, over which you will find the drier climate and colors. But here in the very north there are corn fields, cows and apple orchards in a cooler and damper climate. I love being here during this time of year, September and October. The temperatures are not hot, not cold, just right. Rain frequently arrives during the very early hours of the morning, when the land is in dark shadow. The tourists, mostly other Europeans, have left and the area has lots of room, no traffic and plenty of delicious food. One of Anthony Bourdain's final episodes explores Asturias with José Andrés, who was born in this province. I could easily live in Tapia de Casariego. The people are very friendly, the food is excellent, the scenery first class. It is about an hours drive to Oviedo, one of the most adorable cities in Europe. The mountains are easily accessible as well.

oil painting of playa as catedrais galicia spain by Raymond Helgeson .com
Spain's 19th century "plenairista" movement

While the Impressionists in France receive much attention for their foray outdoors to paint on location, there was also a plein air movement in Spain from 1860 - 1915 as I learned from my recent visit to the Goya Museum in Zaragoza in Aragón, which, among other collections, has the complete series of the Aragón born painter's engravings between 1778 and 1825. The museum is housed in the nobleman Jerónimo de Cósida's house, built for him in 1535-1536 by Juan de Lanuza, a master builder of Moorish houses. The Belgian born Spaniard, Carlos de Haes, chair of landscape painting at the San Fernando Royal Academy in Madrid, helped usher in the plein air movement of the time. He led painting expeditions for his students to various regions. Among the important figures who consolidated the realist landscape painting movement were:

  • Jaime Morera, the Catalan disciple of Haes
  • Agustín Riancho, the Cantabrian painter who loved painting the mountains
  • Aureliano De Beruete, who captured the beauty of the austere and harsh landscape of Castilo
  • Juan Espina, whose landscapes display a vigor and enthusiasm for the treatment of color without neglecting composition
  • Casimiro Sáinz, who painted the environs of Madrid as well as the mountains with a style reminiscent of Van Gogh
  • Juan Martínez Abades, who painted marinas and port scenes along the Cantabrian coast
  • Darío de Regoyas, the Asturian who became a true impressionist in his northern landscapes

next: Isle of Skye and the Glencoe Valley Highlands

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