Plein Air Observation

plein air observation
Plein Air Observation
Plein Air Observation Notes
Plein air observation can be more useful than actually painting onsite. I had a conversation with a landscape painter  about the benefits of  plein air without painting. He does sketching on location. That is great, and there are more ways to benefit. Using a journal and camera are also good as well as simple observation. The field notes are the most benefit to me.  I like to make notes about the angle of sun, the masses, time of day, values along with a line composition thumbnail while I am in the field.
Plein Air Observation
 I also add tiny color note paintings, which I do constantly. They are also called ACEO or Art Cards by some. I use a drawn and measured template. I cut canvas paper to 8 1/2 x 11 inches and then print out the template on these sheets of canvas. I use a piece of cardboard and masking tape to tape them on the card board and then use these tiny formats to do plein air field studies. They take about 10 minutes. They assist with composing, color mixtures, light and atmosphere. They take little time. I can study a subject 8 times on this template sheet in the time it would take to do a small painting. This sheet can be punched on the edge and put into a notebook, or cut into tiny paintings on the grid lines and sold as studies. I sell lots of them.  I use a limited palette for them of five colors, three primaries and Paynes Gray and white as my neutrals for tinting and toning. I believe they are really essential for me to grow and understand the landscape. I also do them in my studio.
Plein Air Observation
I have long said that plein air observation is far more beneficial that actual painting time. If I really want to learn about a particular tree, or field, observation is very important. Before I teach a workshop I go out into the landscape and study the subject, taking notes, doing the studies and thinking about how it works visually. Then I come into the studio to process that information on canvas.  Though I’ve painted trees for a long time, I need to constantly study them to know what they are about. Sorting through a mass of trees is my idea of good painting fun. I spend countless hours doing plein  air observation on farms, and my own land, just carefully thinking and analyzing what I see, on the ground and in the trees. Painting and observing are two different processes. You will see more by watching than by painting.
Plein Air Observation
Not every painter is right for plein air work. It is tough. There are a million bugs, heat, humidity, standing water, confusing landscape, paint efficiency issues, equipment and expense to deal with. I still feel the observation time is more important than the painting process. If you don’t like to paint on location spend time there with a journal instead. I have gradually evolved into a studio painter now. 25 years of painting on location taught me a lot, but I was never a good plein air painter. I did it for fun most of the time. My collectors have always liked my studio work much more than plein air paintings. I am just a better studio painter. The slap dash look of outdoor painting no longer appeals to me visually. That doesn’t mean I hide in the studio. I actually spend more time out in the woods now, observing birds, trees, mosses, leaves, and the way the natural world looks. I believe the observation ha made a huge difference for me. I keep my paint boxes ready to use. I may want to paint outdoors at any time.
More musings for artists and collectors to come…
More musings for artists and collectors to come….
Today’s Recipe
Anna Potatoes
4 large potatoes scrubbed and halved
slice in thin slices about half way through each half. Place potatoes flat side down in deep baking pan. Pour in one can of chicken broth. Dot potatoes with a pat of butter on top, salt, pepper, dried thyme and a dash of paprika. Bake uncovered until potatoes are toasty brown on top and tender. Spoon a bit of sauce over the top as they are plated.


Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *