One of the biggest challenges for plein air painters (painting outdoors) is the vastness of what we are looking at. Trying to get the huge outdoors and fit it on our teeny, tiny, little canvas can stop an artist in our tracks so to speak.
All the advice, tips, and rules I hear from experienced painters seem to leave me when I am out there enjoying the wonders of nature. “Paint what you love.” “Look for the big shapes.” “See the darks and lights.”
Ever since I saw my first Monet painting I wanted to paint water lilies. We were at a beautiful garden with a pond with the most perfect water lilies you can imagine. I was so excited.
By the end of my painting session I was so disappointed. I had wanted to paint water lilies. Here is a sketch of what I did. I went home and scraped it off.
Luckily I took lots of photos and when I enlarged the photo and painted in my studio, I actually painted water lilies.
Now I am happy.
“Water Lilies”, 6×8″ oil on panel available at:
When I lived in California I was lucky enough to take a week-long portrait and figure painting, watercolor workshop from world famous artist Mary Whyte. One afternoon we ventured out of the studio to the beach (we were right on the coast in Crescent City) to take some photos of the model. Let’s face it, you don’t normally come across young women dressed like this strolling the beach.
It was a foggy day and the light was strange. The ocean and the sky was a strange, muted yellow green. I painted it once true to the photo, but after the online course I took this past winter, photos are just a reference and I have broken free from trying to reproduce them—a very big breakthrough for me.
Some people don’t like people in their art; others love the human, lively element people add to a painting. Which do you prefer?
“Shell Searcher”, 8×6″ oil on panel, SOLD
“Sandy Walk”, 8×6″ oil on panel, SOLD
Thanks for looking. 🙂
When my friend invited a group of us to go to the sand dunes, I was thinking hiking the dune and some nature trails by Lake Michigan.
As she parked the car I saw one large dune and a public beach. She unloaded a blanket, towel and beach chair and headed for the beach. I was not prepared. I was not dressed for the beach. I did not bring a blanket, towel or chair. Luckily I had a hat, sunscreen, sketchbook and camera.
It was near the end of summer and I then had shoulder surgery, then it was fall and then the holidays, yada yada yada. I have been wanting to paint this beach scene (and others) since last year.
Finally! This little girl gets to go swimming!
I definitely would frame in a floater frame or edge-to-edge frame so nothing gets covered up.
Want to Swim, 8×10″ oil on panel.
Available at http://www.dailypaintworks.com/buy/auction/570980
I was listening to a podcast by the Savvy Painter, Antrese Wood, where she interviews successful artists (http://www.savvypainter.com), and the artist was saying he works on 40 to 50 canvases at a time.
Well my studio isn’t big enough to do that, but I’ve been working on one piece at a time. Working small and in oil, wet on wet, it generally requires finishing a painting in one session.
Lately though, some of the techniques I want to use haven’t been working and it would seem the paint needs to dry before I apply the next layer. So working on more than one piece would be beneficial.
Also, a fellow artist point out to me that if you are having a problem with a painting and getting frustrated, setting it aside and working on another can 1) build your confidence back up, and 2) going back to the first painting later you may see the problem in a new light and it has solved itself.
Indeed it seems to be working. I started this tulip painting, and then started a beach scene. Came back and finished the tulips and started 2 more beach scenes. Solving problems in one saves time with the next and letting areas dry for a certain texture is working well. I like it.
“Field of Tulips”, 8×10″ oil, available at http://www.dailypaintworks.com/buy/auction/560288
After I took that e-Course in the winter I wanted to make sure I embedded the lessons in my memory, and since the subject matter we painted was basically florals, I painted several more flower still lifes. I’m quite happy with the results.
Then the weather got nice and plein air painting started (painting outdoors) and I was back out in the landscape. I’m always rusty at first and this year was no different. But going out each week helps and I’m getting better.
In the meantime, back in the studio I remembered some photos I took of a house nearby that has it’s whole front yard filled with tulips! Maybe this would be my happy medium. This could be a nice transition between flowers and the landscape. It was very fun to paint.
What do you think?
I am a fair weather painter. I admire those who bundle up in the winter and brave the cold and snow, but for me, the sun and wind and bugs are challenge enough.
I learned to paint “in the open air” while living in California. When I moved back to Michigan I was honestly surprised to find artists painting en plein air. Ha! So we go out together (safer) after being cooped up in our studios all winter to be enthralled, overwhelmed, and challenged by nature.
The first week I came home and immediately wiped off all the paint. The second week was not too bad—won’t win any prizes; probably won’t sell; but is worth studying to see what I learned for next time.
Third week went better. We were serenaded by birds and frogs; there was a creek and a nice breeze. I was happier with the result. Loose, painterly, almost abstract. Available at http://www.dailypaintworks.com/buy/auction/557386
This week the group opted to paint in the local town. Just when I was getting back into the landscape (after my flower series) we have buildings! Another learning experience; not a keeper. And so it goes…
Apples and White Pitcher, 10×8 oil
People think it’s great that an artist gets to paint all day, and it is. But every day I have to find something to paint. For years I painted landscapes. A couple of years ago I ventured into the still life.
Successful artists tell you to “paint what you love”, “paint what you are passionate about”.
I love a dynamic sky, flowers, and birds. I hadn’t really painted flowers or birds until this last year or two. The online class I just completed (see previous blogs) was all flowers and it was great. Eager to continue with flowers I looked into my photo reference files (we are just coming out of winter here in Michigan). My spring flowers are just beginning to peek out of the dirt, but it will be a few weeks before I have anything to paint from my garden.
I started with an Iris, then a garden scene on a 6×6″ panel—maybe too small for such a large subject.
I saw some paintings by Cezanne of some apples and got inspired. I bought some apples and set up a still life with a white pitcher on a sunny day and painted this 10×8″ oil.
Using what I learned in class I noticed old habits trying to resurface and I kept thinking of shortcuts that might be easier. I only have to step back and look to see those sabotaging thoughts aren’t working. Stepping back from the work is one of the most important parts of painting…
…So is deciding what to paint, at least for me.
We got a bonus lesson in week 6, one last photo to paint and to learn the methods of our instructor. I was feeling pretty confident with most of it, applying the techniques I’ve been learning throughout the course.
Then I got to this mass of greenery from the overhanging tree.
First my strokes were too blocky. Wiped that out. Then they were too spikey. Wiped that out. Third time’s the charm? I am happy with the result now. Hey, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
Here is my “pots on a ledge” bonus painting. #DreamLovePaint
The course is over. Now I have to find something new to paint—out there on my own again.
While I’d love to be painting in the south of France in the springtime that’s not always possible (if ever). And while a fresh, white blanket of snow can be pretty, I’m not going out there to paint.
Hence the photographic reference comes into play.
This week’s eCourse Dreama tells us her photo had white shutters but she made them blue in Photoshop®. I also notice some of the flowers have been squiggled in with some color as well.
I do my best to compose in the camera, trying to get a paintable shot. Photoshop allows me to crop out and add elements to those not so perfect shots and work it out before I even get to the canvas. Every little bit helps.
The photo, after all, is not something to be copied, but a jumping off point for so much more.
Here is my “blue shutters” painting from week 6. #DreamLovePaint
Week 4 of my eCourse and I feel like I’m getting the hang of it. Start out with thin paint, bold and bright, massing in the shapes. Then redefine the drawing with this handy tool, the Kemper wipe out tool. It has a pointy rubber tip on one end and a chiseled rubber tip on the other; it removes the paint from the surface.
Moving on to thicker more opaque paint with lively brushtrokes and a variety of colors allowing some of the layer below to show through.
If I fuss too much in one area, instead of blending it starts getting mushy, losing that lively quality, paint builds up, and it gets muddy.
The Kemper tool comes in handy here. I can wipe out a whole area back to the surface and start over. Oil paint stays wet for a long time allowing me to do that. Put back in the brights and be more attentive to the opaques. Way better than wiping out on a surf board.
Here is my blue chair painting from week 4. #DreamLovePaint