Plein air painting is a challenge. The ever-changing light, constant distractions, and unpredictable noises can make it a unique experience. It does take a dash of bravery and commitment. Fortunately the rewards outweigh the distractions. As an artist, it is essential to adapt to the outdoor conditions and learn how to make quick decisions on the spot without second-guessing yourself. In this demonstration you will see how this is done in the filed.
The Challenge of Changing Light in Outdoor Painting
One of the significant challenges in outdoor painting is coping with constantly changing light conditions. Whether it's landscapes or urban scenes, the shifting sunlight angle and intensity can dramatically impact colors and shadows. Adapting to these changes requires swift observation and the ability to make rapid adjustments to your
composition and color choices. To make matters worse, distractions abound, from nearby construction noise to passing pedestrians and buzzing insects. You need to block out these distractions and concentrate on the problems on your easel. Sounds difficult, but with a little practice it becomes much easier.
Embracing Distractions in Plein Air Painting
While distractions can disrupt concentration, they are an integral part of the plein air experience. Rather than letting them frustrate you, embracing distractions can be an opportunity to train your concentration and resilience as an artist. Accepting the challenges of outdoor painting enhances your ability to adapt to the unexpected.
Navigating Noise in Outdoor Painting
Similar to distractions, outdoor noise, whether from traffic or nature, can be overwhelming. Rather than letting it distract you, turn it into inspiration. Let the sounds of the environment influence your artwork, incorporating them into the creative process. Embracing the outdoor environment, distractions, and noise contributes to the unique and thrilling experience of plein air painting. In the video where I am painting a yacht there were many distracting noises. A nearby road with heavy traffic. Pedestrians shouting. But there were also the sounds of seagulls. Wind through palm trees. Lapping water. Beauty all around. Focus on these and the moment becomes sublime.
Quick Decisions: A Crucial Skill in Outdoor Painting
In outdoor painting, time is of the essence. The rapidly changing light, persistent distractions, and the subject itself demand quick decision-making. Hesitation and second-guessing can hinder your creative flow. Trusting your instincts and making decisions on the spot, even if unexpected, is crucial not only in art but also in life. It fosters self-trust and confidence in your abilities. Trust your ability to make the quick decision and it will happen.
Palette and Subject: The Artist's Creative Choices
When creating a painting, the artist's choice of palette and subject are crucial. Using a small palette of colors will contribute to the vibrancy of the artwork. Fewer tube colors means better harmony of color mixes. Also less confusion with color choice. Nothing teaches you how to mix paint more accurately than actually doing the mixes on the spot. Plein air is a great teacher!
Composition and Shadows in Art
Composition is paramount in creating visually appealing artwork. Starting with a basic sketch helps familiarize the artist with the subject. Make adjustments to the composition at this early stage. Shadows, especially the dark shadow at the base of the yacht, play a pivotal role in grounding the subject and adding depth. Planning a hazy background with trees and sky further enhances the overall composition, creating atmosphere and realism. Simplicity of shapes and composition are key to impactful paintings. Learn more about this in this free course.
Capturing Lighting and Water in Yacht Painting
Capturing lighting on a yacht and the water involves adapting to constantly changing conditions. Create large shapes of light and shadow. Then fine tune those big shapes. For example blocking in the water with large dark shapes first. Then add scumbled highlights over the dark shapes. Adding smaller details at the end contributes to the overall realism of the artwork. However the foundation is in place to make these final steps possible.
Finishing Touches and Reflections in Art
The final stages of a painting involve thoughtful additions, such as scumbling highlights on the water and incorporating complementary elements like an orange flag, reflections of the masts and the small highlights against the dark background. Viewing the painting as a quick sketch for learning purposes allows you to appreciate the imperfections and unique character of your work. Adding finishing touches is a chance to refine specific areas and bring your vision to life.
Lessons Learned and Encouragement for Artists
Each painting is a valuable learning experience for you. Reflecting on lessons learned helps in developing a personal style and technique. Plein air painting, done directly from the subject outdoors, is an effective way to enhance skills and observation. It encourages quick and confident painting while providing a connection to nature and opportunities for personal growth.
Closing Thoughts: A Warning
In conclusion, reflecting on lessons learned enhances artistic growth. Plein air painting is a transformative practice that connects you to your subject. Mistakes are part of the process of learning. You will no doubt want to fiddle with the painting back at the studio. A few minor corrections are okay. Be careful though. You can get swept up in a misguided desire to have a perfect painting. This results in a ruined painting in most cases. The little imperfections are the charm. Once gone they cannot be restored. Rather do a new painting using your plein air work as a reference. Then you are really learning. Be brave. Keep painting.