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.
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?
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.
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
A huge winter snowstorm is a great reason to be inside painting. The 10″ of snow makes it quite bright outside in a basically black and white world.
My painting from week 5 of my eCourse is also bright, but very colorful and much more cheery than the blowing snow outside. It makes me happy to be reminded that Spring will come again and flowers will bloom. It makes me smile.
I was about to wipe out one area I didn’t like to repaint it, when I took a few steps back to have a look and saw it looked really good. Sometimes we are too close to something and we need some distance to see it clearly.
When I was just about finished I took a photo and was amazed at how a few problems stood out like a flashing lights. So a few more tweaks to take care of those and I’m happy.
A good reason to paint and a good reason to have art around me—it makes me happy.
Here is my flower painting from week 5. #DreamLovePaint
Painting realistically is not hard for me. Pushing it to photo-realism is challenging but not impossible. (I used to think I could’ve been a forger.) But I find it tedious, and with cameras what they are today, why paint that way?
I want to make my art look like paint, show my brushstrokes and marks, and show my interpretation of the subject.
But breaking habits is not easy. This week’s painting of a sunflower proved that. When watching my eCourse DreamLovePaint video and Dreama said to “mass in the shapes of the petals”, boy I wanted to paint each and every petal!
This is going to take some practice.
Here is my sunflower painting from week 3. #DreamLovePaint
“Good enough” is NOT when it comes to my art. It’s a big red flag that more work needs to be done when that thought crosses my mind. I’m not happy yet and I may need to set it aside to contemplate it awhile.
There was a beam of light in the back that was gnawing on me like a piece of food stuck in my tooth. I got some inspiration from an art magazine I was reading, “Art International.com”. I put some paint on and scraped some paint off creating an interesting texture and depth. More depth is what was needed. Vigorous painting and scraping ensued. “Yes! This worked.” However…
Now the lower left corner—which was more or less an impression of folds of the tablecloth—looks out of place and definitely was competing with the more defined areas of the bottles. So I reworked that area in the same manner as the rest of the tabletop and it fits much better, don’t you think?
“Glass Catches Light” is my entry in the Mid-Michigan Art Guild Summer show at the Shiawassee Art Center beginning June 28, 2015 through August 2nd.
More work on the bottles. More work on the background. Back and forth. Keeping it balanced. Darken the darks. Lighten the lights. Add the reflections. Ooh that pops!
The more I look, the more I see. I can put in too much. Wipe it out and keep it simple in one area. Add some detail in another. I don’t want to get tight. I don’t want to get photographic. I’m finding more and more value in scraping out areas and repainting. I usually say right after I scrape it out, “Oh, I shouldn’t have done that.” But as I’m painting again it always looks better.
Now it goes on my wall of contemplation, so in the evening while I’m reading or watching TV I can keep looking up and see it and in those glances I see things that make me happy or that are just not right.
I thought I was done with this but I see that white beam in the back is bothering me. So more painting is to be done.
In a landscape painting I usually work back to front. In this still life I wanted to block in some of the background to have an underpainting of color and then as I work on the bottles I can throw some the color I use in the bottles into the background so it will tie into the whole painting.
I worked on some of the bottles and blocked in the other 2. I’m not sure why I chose that color. I just wanted something that glowed a bit. Neutralized the background so I can keep things relating to each other. Also starting the tabletop. I have a feeling this will go through many changes before I’m happy.