Painting in the studio has its advantages. The environment is comfortable and easily managed. You have your privacy and the time to consider your next steps. It is especially suitable for larger paintings that may take days or weeks to complete. Unlike spontaneous outdoor painting, the studio has a more considered approach. But it is not that simple.
Time Can Let You Down
Time to consider often leads to second guessing yourself. Changes are made to the painting. These changes often lead to frustration and abandoned paintings. Other times we may overwork the painting. The result is a tight and dull painting. This outcome is sadly easy to achieve if you do not have a system to prepare your painting.
The System that Works Everywhere
There is a simpler way to get results consistently. Have a system for preparing your painting. Even better is to use the same system outdoors too. This way ensures that you approach each painting more or less the same way. So the system must be simple and effective. Quick enough to use outdoors, as far as possible and easily applied indoors.
Are Photos Your References?
First off are your studio paintings inspired by photographs? Probably most artists would say yes. Photos are popular references. That is fine so long as the photos are your own. This takes care of any copying issues. Plus it ensure that you have an emotional connection with the scene. Here are tips on how to use photos effectively as references.
Avoid Photo Dependency
A better approach for your studio painting is to include small paintings, studies and sketches as your primary references for the actual painting process. Yes the actual subject may be recorded in your photograph, but if you have these other references to work from you will find the painting much simpler.
In the video below I refer to a number of small paintings and studies for a large painting of eucalyptus trees. So let us have a look at the three essential steps I use to prepare.
Three Steps to Prepare a Successful Painting
1. Reference Photo: Most commonly you would be inspired from a place you have visited. Then you consider photos when you get back to the studio. Perhaps even sketches taken at the scene? The reference photo will provide the key information to drawing the scene.
2. Notan Sketch: As shown in the video a little sketch using a black and grey wedge shaped marker is enormously helpful. It sets out the structure, mass shapes, three values and helps compose the painting. All in a little two-minute sketch. Fantastic. If you want a quick course (plus 50% off) on how this system can add power to your paintings try this one called (not surprisingly) How to Add Power to Your Paintings Instantly.
3. Small Studies: I rely on small paintings more and more. Especially paintings done outdoors. You can get outdoor studies simply looking out of a window, in your backyard or at any outdoor scene you like. The point is your response to the scene in paint creates a fantastic reference for the actual painting in the studio. A photo does not convey your brushwork and how you solved the painting problems the scene presented. But a small painting gives you the insight you need.
TIP: So start making studies for future reference. Keep these near your easel for reminders. They also boost your confidence when you are struggling with a large painting.
The three steps above can make a huge difference. But you can add watercolour sketches, pencil or pastel sketches and paint mixing exercises too. The latter can help you plan your painting mixes for tricky colours.
Ultimately you decide on what works for you. Some artists are impatient to get started while others can take days to plan and prepare. But preparation will make your painting improve quickly. And that makes for a happy artist.
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