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Old 12-19-2014, 09:59 AM
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MChesleyJohnson MChesleyJohnson is offline
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About Going from Study to Studio

I'm thinking about the process of going from plein air study to studio, and I was wondering if anyone in the community want to tell me a little about how they do it. Here are some questions to jump-start the conversation. For any of them, I have my own answers, but yours might be different!
  1. What do you see as the purpose of the study?
  2. Why would you want to take a study and made a studio painting from it?
  3. How do you go about going from study to a studio painting? Tell me about your process.
  4. What sorts of reference material do you use?

Briefly, here are my answers. My studies strive for an accurate representation of a scene without distortion or using artistic license; I save artistic license for the studio. With this in mind, in the field I try to capture a sense of the moment with accurate color notes and accurate shapes. I then take this to the studio with the goal of making a larger version in which I solve color and design issues and also "push" light effects for a stronger feeling of mood. Sometimes I may take several studies and combine them into a scene that may not actually exist. As for reference material, I use my color studies, drawing, photographs and memory.

Looking forward to hearing from everyone!
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Old 12-19-2014, 10:03 AM
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MChesleyJohnson MChesleyJohnson is offline
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Re: About Going from Study to Studio

By the way, I would distinguish a sketch from a study in this way. A study is meant to be an accurate representation of the scene; it is for reference. A sketch could be looser, with more imaginative color or modifications to the scene with regards to subject or design; it isn't for reference, but may just be a skill-builder or a casual throw-away.
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Old 12-19-2014, 05:26 PM
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Re: About Going from Study to Studio

Michael, I follow your blog as I admire your work. One thing that has struck me is that your plein air works appears to my amateur eyes to be as well developed as your studio work. I guess I had not thought about your plein air work as being a "study".

I hope of the more professional folks here respond to your query as I would be interested to read their answers.

I am an old hobbyist. I have a couple home paintings below based on works that I did outdoors. For me it works the other way. I sometimes decide to try something at home if I have tried and failed a couple times in the field. I paint at home from photos and memory. I do not use my field work as I tend to copy past mistakes. I try for a fresh start on an idea that I liked. It is not the question that you asked but hopefully will ignite some more answers.
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Old 12-19-2014, 06:52 PM
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MChesleyJohnson MChesleyJohnson is offline
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Re: About Going from Study to Studio

Thanks for your kind words, Gary! Much of my plein air work is, as you suspected, meant to be finished work and not studies. Lately, though, I am doing more studies and heading into the studio with them.

Your method seems to be working for you! I enjoyed seeing your paintings online.
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Old 12-26-2014, 06:42 AM
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Re: About Going from Study to Studio

More thoughts:

http://mchesleyjohnson.blogspot.com/...plein-air.html
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Old 12-27-2014, 10:38 AM
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Re: About Going from Study to Studio

Hi Michael. I think this is a fascinating topic. I'm in the relatively early stages of my artistic journey, which involves exploring all these things, so I don't have all of your experience and skill but here are my answers:

1. The study is an attempt to grasp a moment in time.

2. Making a studio painting from a study allows the moment or scene to be filtered even further through the artist's mind, adding all kinds of things - sometimes unexpected. Maybe it becomes more abstract, or the colours change, or the subject is worked out in another medium altogether. Perhaps the artist's feelings about the subject come into play a bit more. Sometimes it might just be a way of scaling up to create a bigger piece of work.

3. I've only just begin experimenting with converting studies into studio paintings and there are a few different approaches I've tried. One is just to copy, almost forgetting what the painting is 'of' and transferring abstract colours and shapes to a bigger canvas. This has produced varied and interesting results. It's even more interesting when the study is in one medium and the studio piece in another (e.g. going from small watercolour to large oil).

Another approach I've tried is to take a plein air pencil or charcoal drawing and create a painting in the studio from it. Typically my colours become very unreal when I use this method - sometimes this is a good way of expressing something about the subject and other times not.

4. I only use my plein air drawings and paintings, and memory, as reference at the moment. I used to find it a lot easier using photographs to paint from but I'm trying to stay away from using them just now because I'm not trying to produce a photographically realistic picture but something that exists in a parallel universe where things are solidly constructed out of paint (if that makes sense). It's not so much the effects of light that I'm after but more the forms, shapes and structure of the landscape, as well as its feeling. Haven't got there yet, mind!

I find something like this http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpainti...-cyprus-106636 to be very moving and inspiring. This is a large plein air so I think that is the way I want to go next - although the practical difficulties are substantial if you are under 5 foot 2 as I am!
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Old 12-27-2014, 12:50 PM
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Re: About Going from Study to Studio

Good thoughts, Helen, and thank you! Good luck in your artistic journey.
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Old 03-12-2015, 02:22 PM
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Re: About Going from Study to Studio

Right now, I'm working on an enlargement of a plein air. I don't do that often but thinking back to another one done about a year ago, I can see the same process. Here's the way it is going- I am pretty much copying the composition and the palette. First with a wash drawing to get the positions and then 'direct painting' although instead of from the scene in nature it is from the plein air. This turns out to be harder than I imagined, I've scraped it off and started over. What came so spontaneously with the first painting has to be quite calculated now. The first took an hour and a half, the second is at almost six hours and I could paint for quite a while more. I didn't start out wanting a duplicate, but it is turning out that way and the more I know about the 'way' the first was done, the more I realize what it involved, the more I am teaching myself to be conscious of the process that happened in the first. So, I think this is valuable to try. And I get the feeling that if I can sustain my interest, I could try an even larger one and get a better result because of the planning I could do now.

There are a couple of changes that are happening by going bigger- one brush stroke turns into many and the en-visionning I have in the first painting can be elaborated on, resulting in more detail. In the second version, I am adding an imagined part, ( where ducks emerge from the woods onto the bank of a river) so that was one reason I had to repaint this scene in the first place. I think if I did try a third version of this painting I would go bigger still, the first was 6x12, the second 12x24 and the third could be 24x48, and I am even tempted to change the palette although that might be too much of a challenge. I brushed up on ducks by drawing from internet photos until I got them in my head enough to configure them the way I wanted.

The painting I did a year ago went from 6x12 to 24x48, so the third version in this case might be the middle size. I've kept some notes on palette in particular, and now I know that the actual steps of application of the paint are understood for the most part, it could be better. So, it wouldn't be a lost effort! I guess what I am seeing in these examples is that a third version is a good idea for me due to the steps in the learning experience.

Last fall, I made another different type of attempt at a studio painting based on plein air when I took a small area, about an inch by an inch and a half and enlarged it to about 12 x 16, because I could see in my mind's eye more of what was happening there and I wanted to show what I saw. A somewhat different project in scope, easier, partly because it was not possible to get caught up in duplication of the gesture shown in tiny brush hairs' marks in the original. So, having an expectation of what is to happen when choosing a subject could be helpful.

Thanks for posting this thread, Michael. I think I have taken on some of your questions although not in order! Sorry! I wish there was more activity during the winter months in this forum to help on this subject- for outdoor painters who are frozen in more ways than one.
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Old 09-16-2017, 09:38 PM
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Re: About Going from Study to Studio

I hope Michael and others are still monitoring this thread, because this issue will loom large for me this winter. I've been painting outdoors most days since March, and I have a large stack of studies and paintings I'd like to develop into larger studio works. I plan to do this as it gets too cold to go outside. But my one effort so far was sometching of a failure. My small study didn't give me enough info for a larger work. My reference photos were mediocre, and memory is fading. What did that foreground tree look like? Maybe I should move it? The design challenge, too, is formidable.

I've read posts at Michael's website on the topic. I know Chuck Sovak has an exercise in his book too. Can anyone point to books or other resources?
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