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Times of the Islands Magazine

From Computer to Canvas - Plein air artist sets technology aside to capture the nature of the islands

Sep 29, 2015 09:26AM ● By Cory Batelaan
Plein air artist sets technology aside to capture the nature of the islands By Klaudia Balogh

Setting up his canvas at just the right angle and capturing the essence of a moment in time outdoors is where you are most likely to find Allen Brockbank these days. However, it wasn’t always like that. He has a 20-year history in graphic design, so he was accustomed to spending long hours in front of computers designing logos, posters and video games for the likes of Microsoft and Disney. After all that time spent surrounded by technology, Brockbank found his way back to a more traditional and, for him, rewarding form of art: painting.

He traded the mouse and keyboard for brush and paint and the monitor for a canvas. The Utah resident and occasional Florida visitor prefers to paint en plein air, which comes from a French expression meaning “in the open air.”

“You get much more feedback from the environment, and your sense of color is much better than seeing them through the camera,” Brockbank says. “There is no substitute for painting fresh air with the sounds and other stimuli all around you.”

2014_11_16JaegerHomeThe plein air method requires Brockbank to finish his paintings in one sitting, so he can capture the natural light, colors and movements of his subject in a moment in time. Living in Utah, he is most likely to paint mountains or desert, but when visiting Sanibel, his subjects switch to the beaches, the Gulf of Mexico and island life.

His first vacation to Sanibel with his wife inspired him right away, so now, with every visit he doesn’t just see what the islands have to offer, he tries to capture their spirit on his canvas.

Painting on the islands opens up a whole new canvas for him. The palette of the western mountains is limited in colors, Brockbank explains, so he appreciates the different hues of Florida, especially the greens and blues, which are very different from what he is used to in Utah. “In Florida the colors are a lot more saturated,” he says, “not to mention the density of the air that’s also very different from the dry mountain air we have [in Utah].”

Florida offers Brockbank a different setting and palette from the mountains, which keeps him coming back.

“I really like places that offer me a change from what I’m used to painting, and that’s one of the things I really appreciate about Florida,” he adds.

Klaudia Balogh is an editorial assistant at TOTI Media.