Monday, April 01, 2013

Member post of the month: Working outside with Johnathan Kuehl

The snow is melting! With warm weather on its way I can't help but get excited. Sure I'm excited about grilling burgers at the beach. But there is something else I have been waiting for since the snow first fell last year; I cannot wait for the warm weather so I can paint outdoors again! 

I am primarily a digital artist. Everything I create ends up on the computer. Designs, illustrations and animations may all start out on paper, but eventually they end up on the computer. The digital medium is an incredible advancement and has allowed artists to share their work like never before. I illustrate and animate a variety of subjects; animals, people, inanimate objects and more; mostly for entertainment and commercial projects. Creating a story around an inanimate object and giving that object human characteristics and emotions is a challenge I love!

When I paint, there are no people. There are no things. There are no animals, no places, no trees or sky's or anything except color! It allows me a break away from the recognizable things that I normally draw and allows me to focus on the design, mood and color of the piece. It is a unique outlet for my creativity to take form. I like to keep things very loose when I paint. At times my paintings may contain tangible subjects, but the technique or application tends to be loose. I guess it makes sense because it is the opposite when I am drawing people or commercial items; these images tend to be very tight and exact. 

Last year, before the snow began to fall, I began working on a very large painting for myself. The canvas is about 6 feet wide & 6 feet tall. I live in an apartment so there is no room to paint something so large indoors. The canvas is so large that I have to take it outside in order to paint it. I created the perfect little set up outside last year where I could hang it up and work on it. Unfortunately, I did not get as far as I would have liked to, so I have been patiently waiting for the cold and snow to leave so I can finish my painting during the warmer months this year.

There is something to be said for creating artwork outdoors. It gives you freedom and a greater sense of "infiniteness." Everywhere you look in the summer you can see people outside creating artwork. I believe summer is when all the creative juices are at their peak! Just look around and you can see murals being painted on building walls, people painting landscapes, caricature artists at the park and much more. 

I can remember painting all sorts of things outside when I was a child. I found myself painting on forts, giant pieces of paper and even sidewalks with giant sticks of chalk. It's not a problem if you make a big mess while you work outside. If anything, it's more fun. If you look around, you can find artwork created by "little hands" all over the neighborhood. 

Now, while I work on my computer I lack this freedom. I tend to be confined to my computer & drawing space, and especially during the cold dark winter months you can feel this freedom slip away. At times, in an effort to overcome this, I bring my sketchbook outside and capture various subjects. You cannot beat the feeling a warm summer day can have on your creativity. The snow can't melt fast enough for me. 

I know many other C.B.I.G. members love working outside. Is there any thing you are looking forward to creating outside this summer?

To see more work from Johnathan Kuehl, visit his Website at


Barb Bjornson said...

Nice article. I love plein aire painting but didn't get a chance to go out the last couple years. Who knows maybe this year I will pack up my sketchbook and pastels and enjoy the great outdoors.
Good luck on completing your large painting Johnathan, post a picture when you are done, we would love to see it.

Kerry Maguire said...

Ditto to Barb's comment! I love sketching outdoors, but have never brought paints. I'll be moving down to IN shortly & my college best friend (artist) lives down there. She has done plein aire painting around the world! She'll be a good influence on me...maybe I can pass on an illustration tip or 2 to her!