View Full Version : From Plein Air to Larger Painting?
05-15-2002, 01:04 PM
Some of you mention using plein air work as studies to accomplish larger paintings. How do you go about doing this? I read in the art books that artists do this...but there is little to no details about how to develop a larger piece from a small study. How can you achieve that freshness of life in the painting working toward a larger size?
or is it really possible?
05-15-2002, 02:00 PM
I have just done that in fact. I took the water garden painting thats's on the home page of my website and explored it a little further with a larger painting. When I get a chance to photograph it I'll post both of them. I wanted to focus a little more on the waterfall in the second and make more use of atmospheric perspective, giving the sky and airiness of the background more distance and space. I also did the larger painting on location but wasn't true to the composition at hand.
The first painting is 12x16 inches. The second is 20x24 inches. Both on linen.
Usually doing a larger painting deals with further exploration of a theme or place. Perhaps I wasn't able to accomplish something the first go round, or I want to focus on another aspect of the scene as in this one. Mine are never alike but consistant in that the theme is the same.
I hope this helps.
05-15-2002, 04:43 PM
Originally Carly, my plein airs were only about 6" x 9" paintings, done in less than an hour tops.
I would take a photo at the beginning of the session for composition and a sense of values. Then, the pochade (which is a French word for "oil sketch" and is basically a loose alla prima plein air), would be made and used as a color reference back in the studio...while the photo was referred to for detail information.
I was yet seeking to give myself permission to loosen up, and my reps did not yet understand plein air as a viable art form enough to lengthen my leash. I knew that the eyes saw more color and intensity in light/shadow relationships than a photo would reveal...yet the market I was dealing with was demanding more literal rather than suggested detail.
By taking my time in the studio, I could trust the color sketch of what my eyes and emotions took in...and the powers of reasoning to override the deader images of the photos. Thus, I could bring some life into the benign photo references...and would learn little by little where to limit detail where it would interfere.
This was my practice for about three years until another rep I had wanted to take some of my plein airs to a major gallery to show the owner my procedure. The gallery owner turned out to enjoy much more the intense honesty and spontaneity and wanted a bunch of those. In time, I began excusing my plein airs as simply studies...and allowed myself to see them as a legitimate stand alone fine art form.
05-15-2002, 08:00 PM
Good question, Carly!
I tried it and it ain't easy. I have a plein air that the light changed before I was finished that I thought I could use as a study for a larger one and the large one started out ok but turned into a real mess. I tried to keep it "loose" but it's just not the same in the studio. I'm planning to try again with the same one but first do value studies, etc. and approach it in a more traditional way.
I'll be watching here for hints.
05-15-2002, 08:31 PM
Yeah, I'll be watching, too-- I'm trying my first one right now, and it's too soon to tell much, but I'm not encouraged. :(
05-15-2002, 10:28 PM
So....Lisa, do you have a "good" photo reference you took of the location while painting, to use with the plein air study?
Here's what you do to help Phyllis and Lisa....
here's how you get that "plein air" look painting in studio using a reference.
Switch to larger brushes...1/2" flats, bigger bristle rounds, larger painting knives. Set up an alarm clock....
Next set your plein air sketch next to your photo reference...
If its a 16" x 20" give yourself 2-1/2 hours. If its an 18" x 24" give yourself 3-4 hours. Set the alarm, and fly with it.
If it seems like too much time, give yourself less on the alarm clock.
Now understand...that people that tend to use plein air sketches for in-studio landscapes are not usually trying to do a larger painting that falls in line with the character of a plein air. Usually they're going for a tad bit more detail that time allows whereas fickle sunlight on location is more likely not to allow.
Its just that they don't trust the color that the film chemistry limits their judgments to.
On the other hand, some like to paint larger instudio pieces that they can't do on location that still have a spirit of having been done on location. To do that...try that alarm clock thing. Make a game. It will force more spontaneity and develop more instinct. Do make a point to back up more often to judge the brushwork from about 3-4 paces back, and squint your eyes a lot. Remember, instudio....you have more time, but that translates not just more time for good things to happen...but also more time for unnecessary things to happen. Squinting will keep the spirit of your piece suggesting detail. It will require you to yet control and master your brush.
05-15-2002, 11:40 PM
Excellent suggestions, Larry, thanks! For the one I'm working on now, I don't have a good photo ref but the memories are quite fresh. But I have some older ones for which I do have good references, and I will try this. I would like to capture most of the color and spontaneity of my plein air sketches, but fix the stuff I botched, clarify the major masses, clean up the color & get better variety, other stuff like that (in other words, re-paint it the way I should have painted it to begin with.) Doing it larger is just a bonus.
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