Monday, July 19, 2010

Plein Air Painting All Day Long At The Farm

I spent the day on Saturday at Scotsdale farm just north of Georgetown Ontario. I love this place. Everywhere you turn is another painting. I packed well with a ton of water in a cooler and snacks to last me through the day. I was determined to paint several pieces as quick as possible. Usually, I get out there and work on one painting for several hours, but after studying the works of some plein air masters, I made a decision that doing more, in this case, is better because you can’t overwork any. Besides the light changes so fast and if you are spending the day working on one, you end up working from memory or blocking in the shapes and waiting for the right moment to paint the light.

I started with this 11”x14” early in the morning. I need to photograph this one again because the glare on the near trees is very distracting. In reality, the trees in the foreground are in almost total shadow and are dark framing the passage of morning light through the meadow.

At about 11:30, I started this little one 4”x6”. I didn’t want to begin working on a larger one in the mid day heat and besides I needed to break for lunch as I was getting hungry and tired of standing.

After lunch, I took a long walk through the farm making notes of where to paint next. I found several locations with magnificent views for my next trip (this weekend I hope). I might bring a piece of plywood with me to stand on so that I can avoid being stationary in the tall grass in some areas. I just don’t feel at ease not knowing what is at my feet LOL. Maybe I should think of a painting carpet instead. Hmm… I will think this through.

The afternoon started getting interesting as the clouds rolled in and rumbles of thunder echoed from the distance. I did this one standing at a small bridge looking south-west towards a hill. For me this one held the most information that I could use for in-studio work. The colours and values are right. I finished this one at about 4:30 took a break, walked around a bit to stretch my back.

Then just after 5, I started on this one. Again I was close to the little bridge looking south-west. This time though the thunderstorm was getting closer and a different sense of colour and atmosphere took over the farm. I was racing with the approaching storm. You don’t want to be on the farm through a thunderstorm. Lightning may be a remote statistical calculation in the cold calmness of an excel spreadsheet, but out there, you don’t want to tempt fate. I was painting fast a furious through this one. When I finished, I quickly put my gear away as the cold wind was ushering in the advance guard of the big rain droplets. As I drove off the farm the heavens opened up with a torrential down pore. I was so glad I timed it

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Some Thoughts on Landscape Composition

This is just a quick personal take on landscape composition to show how I would compose a scene from this view. You may find a better composition of course, but I am trying to share the thought process in the hope that it will help some readers.

Most of the time if one is standing on the spot, one would see a much wider vista than the one in the picture below of course. The temptation is to paint it all. We are captured by the vastness of nature and our first instinct is to document the beauty before us as it is. How can we improve on something that just too our breath away?

So the fact that we are looking at this limited view picture is already an edit of the vast vista that we are standing in. Some may think this is a perfect picture. And why not? It has three levels of value changes in the areal perspective and interesting angles and planes.

If we squint (Picture below) we can see clear lines that make out the outlines of the planes. They look majestic!
But if we look closely, there are some traps in the scene that some painters will only recognize once they are too far into the painting process and perhaps too late to correct and work their way out of them.

Here I have simplified the planes and set them in a gray scale. Something that you can do in the field using pencil and paper. Can you see the problems?
No? Well let's go over them in the picture below:

Parallel Lines
Escape highways
Symmetrical slopes
Resting spots too close
Almost equal height towers

Moreover, away from the sloping lines and the resting spots, there is little that is of any interest to us. What if we were to narrow our view to the area below?

We still have the problem with the slopes, but we have reduced all the others.

Now let’s say we reduce the angle on the middle slope and bring up the tree line higher in the picture.
Here it is in gray scale

Let’s add some highlights

And finally let’s pull the closest tree line higher and flatten the farthest plane a bit.
For me, this is a much more successful composition than nature gave us. More powerful as a painting. What are your thoughts?