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View Full Version : On PA: this week's work and a question


Adriana Meiss
08-21-2008, 02:36 PM
I've tried PA painting before, but the way I've been approaching it lately it's been a hit or miss (more on the miss side). I'm determined to get better at this, so at the end of this post I've listed what I've learned, and hope you would contribute with ideas that might help or work for you.

These are the pieces from this week
#1 (click to enlarge)
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I started this one while waiting for my daughter to take a quiz at the community college she attends (this was nearby). I was counting on having hour to work. I did most of my composition with the camera, and a quick sketch. This is on Uart paper. In my hurry to finish it I muddied several areas. I think it still has potential.
I picked up my daughter and decided to go back to the same place, but of course light is different. I'm ready to go back home, all packed, when I look north and this was the start of #2

#2
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The contrast of the light green in the foreground and the brilliance of the sky caught my attention. I didn't even make a sketch. It kind of painted itself in an hour.

#3
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The orchard at 10:30 A.M.
This is my 4th garden attempt. Very deep inside I think I'm looking for punishment by choosing a busy scene. I keep on asking myself if I'm ready to handle so much green--it's easier for me when working from a photo, but in r.l. it's so different! I did my version of a notan for this one, but I think I lost the shapes in the painting. I had hard time trying to capture the light reflected on the treetops.

My question to people with more experience on PA is, how would you have handled a scene like this?

Things learned (PA process):
Think things through.
Simplify.
Make a good sketch/ notan
Do not paint in a hurry
Use the right support/color for the subject you are planning to paint.

You are welcome to comment, but perhaps your input on what works for you would be more helpful.
Thanks for looking,

Donna T
08-21-2008, 03:20 PM
Adriana, these are very nice PA pastels! I am still working on the "simplify" and "don't hurry" concepts. I think those are two of the things that make or break my attempts. I love that orchard scene and think your greens are really wonderful - variety of warms and cools and 100 times more interesting than the photo.

My question to people with more experience on PA is, how would you have handled a scene like this? I just attempted a scene very similar to this and you won't see me posting it here! I hurried because it was late in the day and the light was changing quickly. I spent too much time on the underpainting so will have to finish from the photo, which looks incredibly dull and lifeless in comparison to the feeling I had on the scene. You handled this scene incredibly well; you were not distracted by details, you followed your notan, and most importantly you captured the peaceful summer mood. Really nice painting!!!

In my very limited PA experience I have learned that I do best if I sketch the scene first to work out composition problems and I always have to remind myself that just because something is in the scene I do not have to paint it. "When in doubt leave it out." My greatest frustration is doing all the sketching/notan stuff and getting an underpainting down so I have some kind of map to follow when the light changes and having enough time to get the colors I want down. So, I'll be reading the other replies to this and hoping that I can learn how to be more successful.

Donna

binkie
08-21-2008, 07:30 PM
I don't do landscapes, let alone plein air but these look are real nice.

binkie

artistwanabe
08-21-2008, 08:08 PM
Adriana,

I feel you have captured the "freshness" of the PA experience. Your simplifying of the scenes is just right. No misses here, I'd say these are "right on"!

Thanks for sharing your learning comments. I am inspired by how much information comes each time I log to these forums.

Geri

bchlvr
08-21-2008, 08:33 PM
I think it is gorgeous! I'd love to try PA as I think seeing the real colors and effects would be more accurate than in a photo...one of these days....

CindyW
08-21-2008, 08:44 PM
Very nice, Adriana! I really love the simplicity and color of #2....I am there.
I only have very limited PA experience, not enough to comment.

klord
08-21-2008, 08:47 PM
HI Adriana,

I think these are terrific! And agree with Donna, that the third one is way more beautiful than the photo reference.

My only thoughts on this concept is at the notan/thumbnail stage.... you might have assigned a solid value to each shape ( or filled out the shapes that you made), and that would in-turn tell you what value/temperature to look for when trying to create the highlights on those trees. That would be what I would do... now, your trees in that painting are wonderful, so please don't take this as criticism. Just answering your question in regards to how another person would attempt this subject matter.

I think it will always be hit or miss with working from life, or not from life... in my opinion. At least that is what it seems like is happening for me!:D

Great work, keep it up!

Kim

Sonni
08-21-2008, 09:22 PM
Someone told me once that you can only approximate light (and color) in paint. I keep hanging on to that concept in hopes I can eventually settle for what the paint can do. I think your trees are fine, but would do what Kim suggests. Also I think you have a good composition going on in the first. By doing a notan to hook in the dark shapes, and a little editing, you may find you can use that first attempt as a reference. The second painting is very nice--it has a fresh look to it, and looks like you laid the color down as you saw it. The sky is totally believable!

One thing I would add to your list is: decide on what attracted you to the scene and be true to it.

Adriana Meiss
08-21-2008, 09:40 PM
Thank you guys!

The first one is not done yet. I might be able to finish it on location next week. The others still look very unfinished to me. This is the hard part, (knowing when it's finished) because I want to continue working on them, but I have to get in my head that working outdoors I'm not likely to achieve the same degree of detail as with a studio painting.

Binkie, I wanted to say thank you to you and your husband for your comments in my previous post!

Geri, Do not let this fool you: I did get distracted with details! I tried giving more detail to the zucchini patch (yellow area just below the porch) and the collards but as hard as I tried, I failed :lol:

Donna, I think this is my fourth or fifth attempt at this garden scene. I would be really embarrassed to show the first one, but I have to say that they are getting better.
I'm with you about trying to capture "the feeling" of the scene. I think it goes beyond "what do you want to say with the painting?" or the focal area. I do not know how to explain it.:(

Here are several suggestions to your problem about not having enough time to finish:

use alcohol instead of turpenoid. I used turpenoid in this one and had to waste more than ten minutes. If you do not use much alcohol, it will dry in 3 minutes.
Also, if the weather forecast predicts same conditions several days in a row, you might want to consider doing the underpainting the day before.
I think painting has to be fun. Do not get too caught up with your notans/ sketches (Again, you might want to do this the day before if working in the same location). They are important but shouldn't take so long that they ruin your painting session.


Linn, , I've been trying PA mostly because I feel it's better for my health to work outdoors. My "studio" is really the entrance of my house and there is not enough ventilation. Outdoor painting is really overwhelming at first, but if you have the right set up, it's very enjoyable.

Cindy, I like #2 the most because it was a pleasure to paint, and it didn't give any trouble.

Kim, I welcome criticism! I see what you mean about the highlights in the tree not being in the notan. I was too lazy to do a good one. I'm hoping to learn from you if you ever decide to come to the east coast! It's really a relief to know that even for someone with your experience PA painting it's a hit of miss.

Sonni, you've hit the nail on something I've been wondering about: you said,
One thing I would add to your list is: decide on what attracted you to the scene and be true to it.
I know the importance of this, but on the other hand I like the idea of letting a painting evolve. After all, it's part of the creative process. Any opinions on this?

maw-t
08-22-2008, 12:02 AM
ALl I know to say is WOW.. I dont know a thing about PA... in fact I had to read several paragraphs before I knew what you were talking about.. I DO know that these paintings hold a kind of magic in them. They are wonderful .. So much looser & more of an 'experience' you captured, than a thought out, perfectly renderd studio painting... I would frame all 3 immediately!! Did I say I love them??

Adriana Meiss
08-22-2008, 12:23 PM
T,
Thank you!
I'm really surprised to find out that those who responded to this post like them. To me they still look so unfinished! I did like the fact that Plein air painting lets you loosen up, which is something I would like to achieve with my studio paintings.
Thanks again.

DAK723
08-22-2008, 12:38 PM
The Plein Air forum is a place I visit occasionally, and from my visits there I can come to a couple conclusions:

Plein Air is difficult, especially in capturing a complex scene.

You have succeeding in doing so. Very well done!

Don

Sonni
08-22-2008, 12:53 PM
Adriana, I wouldn't be concerned about a "finished" look to your plein air pieces. The beauty of plein air is the spontaneity, the vibrance in the act of painting. Light moves so quickly (and that's what you are painting--light), that you have to go with your gut impressions and marks. This sounds easy, but it is not. That's what I mean when I say stay true to what attracted you to the scene. Changing horses in the middle tends to make a weak painting-- example: the light on the mountain is what attracted you, but now the sunset is more interesting and you want to do both. Values and temperature will have changed, and you can't really do both and have a dynamite painting. Hence, the blessed advent of the Notan. It keeps you on track. At least the more I practice using it, the more I seem to be on track. This is not to say that there are not artists out there who can look at a scene and see the abstract shapes and structure in a moment. Most of them have been painting a very long time, and many of them still do thumbnail sketches. I'm not in that bag, yet.

Donna T
08-22-2008, 01:13 PM
Adriana, I wouldn't be concerned about a "finished" look to your plein air pieces. The beauty of plein air is the spontaneity, the vibrance in the act of painting.

I'm so glad you brought this up, Sonni, because I was going to post a question. I hope you don't mind me sneaking it in here, Adriana. Do those of you who do plein air pastels consider them studies because of their unfinished look and use them as references for studio paintings, or do you bring them home to finish in the studio? Adriana, I think your garden painting is ready for a frame, no doubt. Rarely do I feel that way about my plein airs, they are just very unfinished looking. If we work on them in the studio we risk losing that fresh feel yet it isn't always possible to return to the scene to finish. Any thoughts?

Donna

dvantuyl
08-22-2008, 01:22 PM
Adriana, I love these. Very nice. I would say that you had a VERY successful PA experience.

If it were me I would keep looking at these. When I am in the field looking at my finished painting, I usually feel a bit disapointed. But when I get it home and am not comparing my work to Nature, I am surprised and pleased.

If it were me I would be very happy with these. You did great. It will always be hard in my opinion, but it does get easier than when you first go out.

Sonni
08-22-2008, 02:19 PM
I'm so glad you brought this up, Sonni, because I was going to post a question. I hope you don't mind me sneaking it in here, Adriana. Do those of you who do plein air pastels consider them studies because of their unfinished look and use them as references for studio paintings, or do you bring them home to finish in the studio? Adriana, I think your garden painting is ready for a frame, no doubt. Rarely do I feel that way about my plein airs, they are just very unfinished looking. If we work on them in the studio we risk losing that fresh feel yet it isn't always possible to return to the scene to finish. Any thoughts?

Donna

Both. Sometimes I tweak them in the studio using mostly memory now, and a photo ref if I have it. Usually the photo ref is for positioning, because long ago I learned the lies of photos. If I think the positioning (or composition) is way off, I leave it as a study. I am not at the point where I can recapture in the studio what I saw in the field to my satisfaction. It is less frustrating for me to go out an do another PA. I think as you do more PAs, they tend to feel less unfinished. The more I work them, the more they look worked. :rolleyes:

rankamateur1
08-22-2008, 02:23 PM
What I found interesting is what happened between #1 and #2 - you turned around and found a different subject.

Although a rank amateur in pastels/drawing, I'm a fairly accomplished amateur photographer. In my experience, it's (relatively) easy to pay attention to what's in front of you and really dig in to it as a subject. What's not so easy is to remember to look behind you - I have missed great photos by forgetting to look around.

Several years ago, I was in Scotland standing on a bluff looking over a brilliant scene of an inlet - turqoise water from the Gulf Stream, lovely greens that you only see in the UK, and that beautiful heather on the hills. I forgot to look around. Luckily, I drove past that same place later in the day and on the other side of the road from where I was initially standing was an ancient standing stone and cairn. Too bad I hadn't looked around, because the light was better the first time.

Luana

Adriana Meiss
08-25-2008, 01:40 AM
Thank you all for reassuring me that I'm on the right track!

I'm sorry to respond just now. I was away over the weekend ---I painted 3 pieces on Saturday!

Don, I thought that because I work fast in my studio paintings, PA painting was going to be a piece of cake. Boy was I wrong :lol: !

Sonni, as a beginner PA painter I see now the importance of keeping on track. I know it will take some time to accept the look of this kind of work, but it's not so much the end result as it is the experiencing it. This past Saturday, for the first time in a long while, I felt totally relaxed while painting. I'm smiling just remembering it.

Donna T, For my part, as I mentioned in your post, I will consider them studies, this way I won't feel too disappointed if they do not turn out well.

Donna V.T.
I'll do what you suggested. Maybe that way I'll get to appreciate them better.
I want you to know that you have been a major inspiration to me. Every time I see a new location you have gone to in the mornings, what you had produce and the fun you had (that somehow emanates from your post), there had been a little worm telling me " you could be doing that." I'm really glad I'm finally doing it!

Luana That was going to be my first painting, but at that time the light wasn't that great, so I decided to paint the trees. I'm really glad I went back! Thank you,

Tressa
08-25-2008, 08:20 AM
Adriana you did a good job, and I would be pleased also. Plein air is just another form of "seeing" a composition in a jumble of input to the brain.
Sonni's suggestion of focusing on what it is about the area that attracts you, is the essence of outdoor painting. There is too much information going on and the need to simplify is totally necessary. It takes practice and a certain attitude to enjoy pa, but it is so rewarding.
As to what to expect from your results, it can vary. I usually don't fiddle much with a piece that I stopped in the field, unless it was with the express thought of being a study or sketch in the first place. I have used pa pieces for studio paintings, and I have framed pa pieces as is. The idea is to be able to get down on paper the essence of a scene without getting to involved and lose the atmosphere and spontaneity.
As to time frame, I admit, I rarely do thumbnails pa, but I do take time to study and walk around etc.. before I start to paint to absorb what attracts me to a certain aspect of the area. I usually use charcoal as my initial laying down, or a quick WC wash,or alcohol and pastel wash, and quickly establish darks(shadows),then I don't get too caught up in the loss of the light changing, because I have my reference on my paper.
Main thing is artists either love doing PA or they don't. It's not for everyone, I don't think, but if you love being outdoors and painting, just keep at it and it will get better and better.
Tressa

Adriana Meiss
08-25-2008, 10:18 PM
Tressa,
The idea is to be able to get down on paper the essence of a scene without getting to involved and lose the atmosphere and spontaneity.

I think this is good advice. I'll keep that in mind!

It's not for everyone, I don't think, but if you love being outdoors and painting, just keep at it and it will get better and better.

I do feel it's for me!
Thank you!

Terry Wynn
08-25-2008, 10:25 PM
Hi, Adriana,

I just had to post. I love the spontaneity in your paintings. I think they are all beautiful. I love the freshness and light you captured. Looks like you were truly enjoying the moment.

Terry

Adriana Meiss
08-25-2008, 10:35 PM
Terry,

I'm glad you find freshness in them.
I did enjoy painting the second one. No. 3 was the most difficult.

I did more outdoors painting this past weekend and for the first time I was truly relaxed.
Thanks you for writing,

chewie
08-25-2008, 11:02 PM
i really think you did a great job. sometimes i use my pa's for studies, and as someone else said, sometimes when i bring them inside for a bit, wind up framing them as is. the freshness is very good in 2 and 3. and i still think the first can be finished up. sometimes tho i just say it beat sitting in the house at least, when they turn out badly! this has been a fun thread that i'm learning from too.

Tressa
08-26-2008, 06:32 AM
I was reading a book yesterday, and this jumped out at me. For those familiar with classical works this is from Keats about "transcendent moment of discovery"

"then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like Cortez when with eagles eyes
He stare'd at the Pacific-and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise-
Silent, upon a peak in Darien."

No discovery worth anything is easy and comes without effort, and I believe art is a transcendental journey of discovery. Learning how to do plein air is a path in discovery of how to make a statement; give a personal view of the world around us; and to try to convey our message of beauty, feelings, or provocations, and also to give a sense of personal achievement, accomplishment, and the need to create evermore.

Ok, I'm off the lecture box now:evil: