View Full Version : Plein Air at the River

06-19-2012, 01:11 PM


Title: Plein Air at the River
Year Created:
Medium: Acrylic
Surface: Canvas
Dimension: 9x12
Allow digital alterations?: Yes!

painted Saturday mo<br>ing on the Cuyahoga River

painted, va<br>ished and submitted to the competition so changes aren't possible on this one now. Juat showing ya ;-)

06-19-2012, 01:42 PM
What did you need the view for. You really didn't paint it at all. I don't particularly care for the sky. To much brush texture. The values are all the same and I see no shadows and wonder where the sun is. That yellow streak dosen't work for me and the distant hills could be softer and lighter in color. I realize that it is only a 9 x 12 which doesn't require too much information but you could have used a straight edge for the bridge. It is architectural and the staightness of the lines separates if from natures creations. I also think that the water should have had some patches of blue to reflect the sky. Hope I'm not being too critical, but these are just my thoughts.

06-19-2012, 02:37 PM
Thanks Phil.
This is done with palette knife, not brush.

06-19-2012, 04:07 PM
I have no problem with the brushwork as it is consistent throughout and could therefore be considered a "style" for this painting. However, the values definitely could be differentiated much more between light, shadow, reflection, sky, foliage, ground, distance, etc.

06-19-2012, 05:37 PM
I think its neat.

06-20-2012, 07:12 AM
I have read in many books and articles as well as having heard in workshop lectures that artists gotta paint plein air. So I have tried many times with different kit. About 25% of the time, I seem to come up with something. The other times, I blow it and flee in horror. Usually I can make some kind of save (assuming I'm not painting with watercolor) in the studio later but then it's not really plein air. I have never had the feeling that plein air painting is "better" or more creative than studio work but I keep trying because of all the push that that's what artists gotta do. Anyway, all this by way to saying that I think you've got a plein air casualty in comparison to your other work. In my critique I won't give you a laundry list of problems as Phil has done that but will focus on this. A great painter can come up with a great painting regardless of the scene but us non great really need a compelling scene around which to build our painting. Since you've given us a photo (most helpful) I can judge that the scene is marginal but the best part of it is the way the river twists rightward around the mid ground trees. It give a path into the picture plane which adds interest and depth. In your painting, you've just lost this. The river's like a lake; it doesn't extend. And again regarding the scene, I don't think the elevated highway works. One can make a cool painting of highway forms but in your scene it's just there in peekaboo mode and only creates an odd contradiction with the pastoral trees and water. So...the rule is that if an element in the scene does not contribute to the artistic value of the scene, out it goes. The artist must simplify. And I think, like in the scene, it's not doing much for the painting.

06-21-2012, 01:38 AM
In the painting, the olive green in the foreground I guess it is supposed to be the river. But it looks like it could be grass. It appears that you really liked the bridge so you zoomed in on that. But the trees on either side of the bridge are barely there in the painting. I think it would be good to have backed up the point-of-view and included them. The distant hills in the photo are definatly blue-ish. I think they need to be bluer in the painting. Otherwise, your river, your grass on the far bank, and the distant hills are all the same color, and to the viewer, they all look like they might be the "same" stuff: grass. Even if they didn't look blue to you, I find it's good to create a little depth by pushing the atmospheric perspective. But don't be discouraged. Knife painting is difficult and I think you did a great job with the knife. :)

06-21-2012, 02:58 AM
Sorry I had to look again as the photo is so different to the painting.
You don't have to paint everything you see and you should be selective
in capturing the essence of the scene before you.

Focusing on what you see, not what you can imagine or intellectualize about the scene is normally the go (otherwise you may as well be back in your studio).

I like your painting, I do think where to placed your easel was not so appealing, but that is the beauty of it, you can move to a better location or angle.

Just some thoughts


06-21-2012, 04:47 AM
I think the value of the colours are very well tuned. Working with knives works well too.
It's apity sky and river with banks cut your work in two almost equal (in size) parts.
The flowers on the foreground could be detailed a bit more in order to gain some depth?
Nice work.

06-21-2012, 09:18 AM
If I hadn't seen the reference photo, I would have said you had a very impressionistic work here! Without the photo to compare and if I blur my eyes slightly, I really enjoy the colours used and the play of light here and there. I agree it is nothing like the photo, but I like the painting and I may have a go with palette knife myself soon! Cheers Debs. =))

06-21-2012, 03:08 PM
Thanks for all the great comments. When I paint plein air my intention is to give a feeling of the place, the conditions, a sense of the place and time. This is one of the spots along the river where the river is not closely bordered with trees and there is an expanse of sky. For better or worse I focused on the distance and intentionally left out all the sideline trees.


You'll notice that in the photo there are three bridges and I deleted the first two, leaving only the Ohio Turnpike bridge. I wasn't interested in doing an architectural rendering of the bridge but just to include it as a landmark and also a horizontal in the piece. The palette knife is great to use outdoors, especially when its 93 degrees and the acrylics are drying so fast ( good reason to set up in the shade!) I also like the rough and rugged texture it gives an outdoor work. When the show is over and I get the piece back I'll take some close ups.

This is a green and muddy river brown river and it reflects light and then green and more green. This early in the morning you do not see reflected blues. Of course the beauty of plein air is you can go to the same place and see totally different colors.:)
Thanks for looking!