View Full Version : colors in painting from life

03-17-2000, 10:31 AM
my affinity for painting landscapes comes from my passion for nature. This is why it's so difficult for me admit that they just don't turn out as vibrant as the actual scene unless i enhance the colors a bit. I f i try to paint a beautiful valley while sitting at the location, it'll likley turn out muddy or just plain boring. The answer seems to be to brighten the colors considerably. I have been known to move a tree a tad to enhance composition, as well. I realize that it's not nice to question mother nature, but it's the only answer! My question is this: If you paint the scene in (or as close as possible) the actual colors that you are observing. you get nothing worthy of the time spent. If you heighten the tones and brighten the colors you get a wonderfully worked painting. Why is this? Thanks..... Cheryl

03-17-2000, 10:39 AM
i guess i should also like to add that what i'm talking about also refers to the difference between veiwing the scene in person verses taking a photograph of the same scene. the latter is nothing like what you thought it might be. I s this because with paint i'm not getting the light play acurate?...Cheryl

03-17-2000, 11:10 AM
We paint with pigment which can never duplicate the real and complicated colors in nature. Nature also had the advantage of light, we can only try to imitate the effects of light. Since you can't paint exactly what you see, you "enhance colors and composition" to show what you felt there. That's what it's all about. I don't think it has to do with "accuracy". http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

Cindy Agathocleous

"What if imagination and art are not, as many of us might think, the frosting on life, but the fountainhead of human experience?" - Rollo May from The Courage to Create

03-17-2000, 11:42 AM
I know exactly what you mean! Sometimes I paint plein air and feel I am capturing the mood and the light of a scene...then take it home and look at it...and it seems like a different place altogether! How do you capture the feel of morning mist? or the light dancing across the water? I suppose it takes a lot of painting! and I move things around for composition all the time! Who says 'mother nature' knows best?

03-17-2000, 11:17 PM
first and foremost,,,you are CREATING a piece of art. you paint from your heart. mother nature is ALWAYS wrong, and you must right her. if the colors don't satisfy you, paint them as you see in your heart. here is where the truth lies. what you see, either in real life or in photo, is merely a conduit for your emotions. paint things as they SHOULD be, not as they are.....milt

03-18-2000, 07:41 PM
What do you mean when you say that mother nature is always wrong? Just curious.

03-18-2000, 08:04 PM
first of all....i include EVERYTHING,,,,landscapes, seascapes, still lifes, figurtive,,,EVERYTHING. mother nature is wrong meaning that everything you paint has to be tweaked and adjusted in order for your painting to work. whether it's moving elements around in your composition, changing the values of some elements so that they read better,,,color(which is personnal anyway). for me,,,i have to change 70% of what i see. one of the biggest mistakes an artist makes is trying to paint what is given. there is ALWAYS too much confusion that must be edited. it is too easy to assume that "if it's there, it must be right". EDITING A PAINTING is one of the keys in the growth of an artist.

"he who thinks he know all and knows nothing is king in a kingdom of one,,,,,or a critic" - the kobe

Drew Davis
03-18-2000, 08:35 PM
One of the random quotes from the home page seems apropos:

The moment you cheat for the sake of beauty, you know you're an artist.

~ Max Jacob ~

03-19-2000, 03:21 PM
Painting from life is just plain FUN! I have to agree with Bruin that you simply don't copy. In fact, if you do just "copy" what you see, you'll miss the "thing" that first caught your eye.

There is an underlying unit and spirit of the thing that catches your eye. In setting out to paint it, one often falls to the mistake of taking note of everything that DID NOT first attract the eye.

The student artist labors to prove his/her capability and cleverness in painting everything they see. The discerning and maturing artist selects and discriminates.

After doing dozens and dozens...perhaps a hundred paintings, you begin to realize beauty in even the ordinary and the mundane. You realize your value to call attention again to the ordinary which lathargic eyes have routinely overlooked. You hope to enrich lives by getting people to recognize that perhaps they've been negligent by not seeing what you the artist are. They sense a need to correct that, and assess the need to once again "stop and smell the roses".

You take advantage of specific elements that are inherent in each scene, and isolate them by giving them priority. You downplay that which is of lesser value in order to demonstrate what rang your chimes! People look upon the view to see if they do not agree. It speaks to people when they too get it.

Pigment is a poor substitution for actual light, but using all compositional elements as "strategies" open to us, it is even more remarkable that we can project a "sense" of it. When the habit begins to prevail upon us, we develop a visual voice that others find interesting and of value.

That we find a session fails us, so what? Of what things worth doing in life, are not that which require paying one's dues? Get over it. Get on with it. To become the best, outlast the rest.

If the piece comes off dull when you get home...then the failure was in fully capturing what it was that indeed captured your interest. Other incidentals got in the way of getting at the root of it.

That is the challenge. Also the sport of it.

Instead of feeling downcast and assessing it a waste of time...get out there and pay your dues. Quit believing some get it and others don't because of some good fortune of genuis has fallen upon them. Start crediting good work to hard and prolonged effort. To sweat and enduring tears.

Paint...paint...paint, and then...paint some more!


03-25-2000, 12:58 AM
gee Larry, if i came across as whining, then i've grossly misrepresented myself! i do see the beauty in even the most mundane features of nature. this is why i have such a passion for painting them. i'm simply wondering if i'm missing some key points in the process of making the end result as striking as i found it to be. maybe some tips on light play or color enhancement. as far as paying my dues i fully intend to do exactly that & have been. i realize that there's a long row to hoe but i love every minute of it....Cheryl

03-27-2000, 10:30 AM
Thanks for expalaining what you meant Bruin, I understand now and agree with you.

03-28-2000, 07:42 AM
Larry said,"To become the best, outlast the rest."

I don't think I'll live that long!

04-15-2000, 07:06 PM
I guess you are not satisfied with your colors first. Then you should choose the palette first. If you see that the scene (a sunny day, 4 p.m.) is calm and serene, then the palette will be also calm (no cadmium lemon or light hue or cadmium orange, but more Ochre and Indian yellow or Alizarin Crimson.) But if it is a bright sunny day with a dark blue-violet sky and the grass glittering in the sun, then the palette will be different. Much depends on the underpainting. I strongly recommend you to buy a book by Lois Griffel "The Impressionist Landscape". It helped me a lot and turned my view of a color theory upside down. I hope it will be useful for you too.
Good luck.

04-17-2000, 11:05 AM
Julia, i found your comments on the palette colors to be very helpful. Makes soo much sense. Now i'm really looking forward Easter Sunday! We are going to the coast (gulf, Florida) where the guys will do some fishing & i'll be doing a plein air. Can't wait!....Cheryl

04-20-2000, 06:20 PM
I find that when painting in the field it is almost impossible to paint the exact colors and light that I see that first prompted me to set up my easel.
I know that this is because of the changing of the light from the time I started till the time I am ready to leave. I always have my camera with me and the first thing I do is take a picture of my scene. After all, the light, the subject, the time of day, well they were what lead me to have the urge to paint that particular scene. The photo will be my reference for finishing my painting. I also have a polarizer on the camera which I adjust to make the picture look the way my minds eye sees the final painting.

I paint the picture from what I see on the spot but always finish it up when I return home and paint it in the light that it will be displayed it. I can use the photo that I took for inspiration to finish the painting. Of course I can always enhance the painting, or change things that will make my painting be as visioned in that moment that I was inspired to make the creation of art in the first place.
I find that is works well for me and I some how feel that mother nature and I have come to understand each other..... (and of course Kodak)
G Bar

04-21-2000, 09:32 AM
I envy those of you who are able to paint "on site"...... and I often wonder if my own works would not be more impressive had I been able to do that instead of relying on photos.
Maybe to "make up" for having to use photos, I choose to exaggerate (sp?) those colors and contrasts that first caught my eye..and it seems to help in expressing what I want to express. Carol

04-21-2000, 10:09 AM
Carol, i've seen your work & the exageration that you talked about works so wonderfully for you that i just may try that! I loved them all (on your web site) but had to smile when i came to the Florida sunset 'cause your listed it as 8x12x0 funny because i would have put the depth at about oh, thirty miles or so!! lol Thanks for the advice. You really need to try to do a little 'on site' work because it's such a very nice way to spend an afternoon. The experience really goes beyond painting alone! Happy painting....Cheryl http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

04-21-2000, 11:57 AM
[b]I envy those of you who are able to paint "on site"...... and I often wonder if my own works would not be more impressive had I been able to do that instead of relying on photos. Carol </b/>

My wildlife painting for 17 years relied heavily upon sketch books, direct contact with skins and mounts, and photographs Carol. Thus, you are not much different than I, with myself being more a "late comer" to plein air practices. I was more or less a studio painter.

I've shared this before Carol, but if you take a photo that represents a scene outdoors, get yourself some 12" x 16" panels or canvas...and set a clock's alarm for about 2 hours. Do the next one in about 1-1/2 hours. The next in 1 hour...you will be preparing yourself to take it outside.

Squint your eyes. Go for large masses, values indicative of heavy shadows. Go for obvious contrasts. Use a rag, broad brush, etc; Then go for warm and cold colors playing up especially where you want the eyes to focus in on. Use a palette knife, some rounds and filberts. Last...use sky color to suggest tree foilage, poking thru tree shape masses. Keep your block-in a turps and pigment stage so the canvas or board absorbs and dries quickly.

The secret to color and drama outdoors is to squint your eyes and state the obvious, AND ignore the unessentials.

"U can dOO it!" http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/wink.gif


"Art attacks can skill!"

04-22-2000, 09:36 AM
Larry, i've been reading about your 'eye squinting' in other areas of these message boards & i want you to know that it does work for me & i'm now walking all over the place squinting. http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif My husband asked me if i was having trouble with my eyes! lol.....Cheryl

04-22-2000, 11:45 AM
That's hillarious Cheryl!

It works also for judging your painting at the easel so you don't have to get up and step back every five minutes or so!

In my classroom at school, I guess I do it quite often when demonstrating or helping a student...and many kids remark about my ability to draw with my eyes closed! hahaha


"Art attacks can skill!"

04-23-2000, 10:25 PM
Hey Larry, just wanted to add that I have been trying some of the things that you have talked about in your Plein Air Article as well as here on the message boards and they are great. Also, I have been using my camera as an aid to finiding my composition.