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Old 03-16-2014, 12:43 AM
**Kathryn** **Kathryn** is offline
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plein air direction

I just finished looking at all the plein air paintings that I have created over the last few years - about 100 completed on weekends. Working full time as a designer, I really don't have the time to devote myself to full time effort. I realize my short comings with technique - need to better establish distinct light and dark patterns through contrast, need to improve brushwork and linework to explore painting more distinctive marks, need to explore more interesting compositions by interpreting the landscape instead of "copying" what I see, need to explore the quality and thickness or thinness of paint. Work larger. I also have strengths - dead on color and accurate drawing fairly quickly, good instincts.

As a designer who occasionally does some art directing, my ability to discern what's really good, saleable, etc. is pretty darned spot on. Here's the thing: Out of all those paintings, about ten were good but not fantastic nor mind blowing ...and of those ten, I personally wouldn't buy any one of them. Frankly, they are all too traditional for my personal taste of liking art and design that's more contemporary, current,and expressive.

In fact, I hate all my plein air frames that I bought for plein air events. I guess I was following what everyone else was doing and I find myself unsatisfied with the results and my progress. What do I do with all this bad art and frames? I have spent a lot of money on these RayMar canvases. Do I pitch 90 of them? fix them?

Has anyone gone through a stage in which you find you style unappealing even to yourself? What did you do?

thoughts
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Old 03-16-2014, 01:39 AM
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Re: plein air direction

What medium did you use? I didn't see that anywhere..
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Old 03-16-2014, 10:03 AM
**Kathryn** **Kathryn** is offline
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Re: plein air direction

Oil
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Old 03-16-2014, 10:48 AM
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Re: plein air direction

Quote:
Frankly, they are all too traditional for my personal taste of liking art and design that's more contemporary, current,and expressive.

Why are you painting on location? If you want do paint more contemporary, current and expressive, may be you should chose a medium (watercolor, acrylics, pastels or mixed media), which allows you to be more yourself. Painting en plain air is always connected with some limitations, like format and time.

Quote:
In fact, I hate all my plein air frames that I bought for plein air events.
What about Ebay?
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Old 03-16-2014, 12:59 PM
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Re: plein air direction

If you want to continue - educate yourself smartly to overcome your shortcomings. Do targeted exercises.
Regarding the panels - if you did not paint extremely thick already - paint over the less good. Sell the frames and try to become specific about what you do like. A simple floater frame in black, white or silver tend to be a good choice for me.
/Åse Maj
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Old 03-16-2014, 01:47 PM
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Re: plein air direction

Personally, I have the blues now about my work. So I posted something I don't particularly like and got some feedback, some that I took. Agh! so what?
<Tomorrow will be better. Do what I did!- post something.
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Old 03-16-2014, 04:57 PM
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Re: plein air direction

Well, I'm a frugal sort, so if you can scrape off or cover up what you don't like , try that. Then use the canvas to experiment with something new that will make you happy.

I haven't seen any of your work posted yet, but if you aren't happy with it then try something else..

I would love to see some of them before you cover up or toss them..
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Last edited by tj84 : 03-16-2014 at 05:02 PM.
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Old 03-16-2014, 07:39 PM
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Smile Re: plein air direction

Quote:
Originally Posted by neophron
Why are you painting on location? If you want do paint more contemporary, current and expressive, may be you should chose a medium (watercolor, acrylics, pastels or mixed media), which allows you to be more yourself. Painting en plain air is always connected with some limitations, like format and time.


What about Ebay?

Limitations !?! - with format & time ...

• BOTH, excuse, are not true !!! It is possible to paint PleinAir with big sizes (XL / XXL) and by time, it depends if you would 'copy' "only" the light or if you would 'copy' primary atmosphaer ... (and more other interesting things ;-) )
-> in Europe, more in German, are big Sizes at PleinAir "normal" or 'standard' :-D

P.S.: Expressive is in PleinAir also possible and a superB way to captcher atmosphaer, mood and "expressive" (surrounding)colors with buildings, landscapes, citys & light ...

• AND EXPRESSIVE AT PLEINAIR IS SUPERB WITH OIL or OILSTICKS/OILBARS
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Old 03-17-2014, 05:18 PM
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Re: plein air direction

Quote:
Originally Posted by **Kathryn**
Has anyone gone through a stage in which you find you style unappealing even to yourself?

Consider yourself blessed or cursed. The fact that you can see the difference is a good thing. You will either push yourself to keep improving or quit out of frustration.

Don't quit, keep pushing, the breakthroughs will come!
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Old 03-17-2014, 08:34 PM
**Kathryn** **Kathryn** is offline
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Re: plein air direction

Thanks for the comments so far.

neophron: Ebay might be a good idea!

I love painting on location and I've seen others who are expressive with their oils. They work large and some have even used acidic colors. I think I'd like to move away from noodling away from 9"x12" panels. Why do so many think plein air need to to look realistic like the "Barbizon School" while forgetting Monet and Van Gogh? so many of us are taught to paint what we see and interpret it as literally seeing when maybe what we should do is paint what we "see" or envision. I'm tired of painting literally what I see.

Bugbitter: floater frames are a good choice. I actually like stretch canvases that have a contemporary style that is about 2.5" or 3 or so deep. You don't even need to frame these; you can paint the sides. I also like framing mimics this deep look by having thin strips of wide wood surround the canvas. I have been doing targeted exercises. I've been experimenting with abstraction because I can try different brush strokes and mess around with paint thickness and thinness. It's fun, but also frustrating because my work is all over the place looking schizophrenic.

Decinergy: Oil bars, yes!

For those of you asking to see my work because you think I might have the blues and are in need of feedback. I understand your consideration, thank you very much. The issue isn't so much that I'm having trouble with the painting - I wouldn't buy it even if it was superbly painted. It's a matter of style. Some people wouldn't buy flowy wispy dresses and prefer A -lined or pencil skirts. Some like traditional landscapes while others like impressionism while others like stylized. I'm saying I don't like the style of my paintings. Yes, dozens and dozens of them are not very good - mostly because I paint no more than 3 hours outside and stop - no retouching inside. I could consider them learning exercises --- expensive learning exercises.

If the painting is not too thick, could I somehow paint a layer of white onto the panels and then use them again?
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Old 03-17-2014, 08:49 PM
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Re: plein air direction

I like using my unfinished plein air paintings as backdrops, painting in people or birds or whatever from my own photo references back in studio.

I don't think that's what you want to do, but you could still treat them as backgrounds and explore new styles on top of some of them.
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Old 03-17-2014, 08:49 PM
**Kathryn** **Kathryn** is offline
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Re: plein air direction

By the way, I think a few of the ones that I don't like can be fixed and sold, but I'm not sure I want to bother. Would it be wise to put your name on something that you don't wholeheartedly believe in? Do I make up a fake name just to get rid of these and recoop some of the money I put into this expensive endeavor?
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Old 03-18-2014, 01:31 PM
bugbiter bugbiter is offline
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Re: plein air direction

So, you don't like the style of your paintings. Yet you continue to paint in a style you don't like, even if you have experimented with the paint application. I would suggest it is a result of your process (and mindset, as you start your paintings). Maybe the process needs to be reconsidered. But also have a clear thought of what you want to achieve before you start painting. Maybe a radical change is needed to break free. How about doing a few copies of paintings who's style you do like? Then, immediately after, use these styles in a plein air study of your own. To make a good copy, you need to seriously consider the techniques and process used to create the original.
How about taking a class in expressive drawing or painting? I know AAU (academyart.edu) have a couple of online courses.

Enjoy the process

/Åse Maj
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Old 03-18-2014, 08:53 PM
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Re: plein air direction

Quote:
Originally Posted by **Kathryn**
...I realize my short comings with technique - need to better establish distinct light and dark patterns through contrast, need to improve brushwork and linework to explore painting more distinctive marks, need to explore more interesting compositions by interpreting the landscape instead of "copying" what I see
...
Has anyone gone through a stage in which you find you style unappealing even to yourself? What did you do?

thoughts

Yes, I had a similar experience with my own work. When I first started painting all of my efforts were focused on mastering the techniques necessary to produce a reasonable looking landscape. How much water in a wash? How to paint white clouds? How to make a tree look like a tree? How to get depth in a mountain range? Les, my first tutor was a great help. His classes consisted of copying photographs existing watercolour paintings. His instruction consisted of which colours to use, which parts to paint first, which techniques to use at each point, and helpful commentary as to how to 'correct mistakes' made in copying the original painting. This was good instruction for a beginner and I did learn a great deal from these classes.

Eventually after a couple of years of painting on my own and with a social painting group, I reached a comfort point with my brushes, paint, and paper. I'm not saying I mastered them. That would take a lifetime, but at least had move on from the 9 failures in 10 paintings to a point where I wasn't embarrassed to let outsiders see my work. About the same time when I became comfortable with my watercolour materials, I became disillusioned with what I was painting. What I wanted to know is how a master artist, standing on the South Bank, could look over the Thames at Westminster and paint an atmospheric masterpiece whereas all I 'saw' was Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.

For the next three years I studied visual composition. Somewhere during this time I found a copy of Robert Wade's “Painting your Vision in Watercolor”. With his helpful words I began to see how it is possible to see with an artistic eye. Three Wade books later and I had some answers but I also had more questions. I can't recall the linkage between author-painters, but over the next year or so I 'discovered' Frank Webb, Tony Couch, John Lovett, Edgar Whitney, Jo Taylor, Robert Wood, and Rex Brandt. These artists-authors and others were the basis of my composition and design education.

I searched online for guidelines, rules, suggestions, NYFCN ( Name Your Favourite Composition Noun) for composing a picture. I found and studied the 7 elements and the 8 principles, centres of interest, Fibonacci, golden ratio/rectangle/spot, the rule of thirds, value studies, and various composition check-lists. My search included a non-comprehensive review of the 1200 or so threads on the WebCanvas Composition and Design forum and more than 120 websites with design or visual composition information.

Time and time again, I found artists-authors emphasizing: value, value plans-patterns, and making thumbnail-value sketches as a prelude to painting. One of my artists-author mentors, Ian Roberts, in his book Mastering Composition suggested: “A Composition a Day”. I tried it. I works for me. It may not work for you. As they say, “Your mileage may vary”.

So here is an exercise that may help you. Get two felt tip pens; one black and one grey, and some inexpensive paper. Go to your favorite, nearby, plein air site and sketch. Draw a small box, no more than 2 or 3 inches in a similar proportion to your current painting support. Sketch the scene using only the two felt tip pens. No shading. Just three values. The white paper, the grey and the black.
  • Try different formats: square, vertical or horizontal, 1:2, 1:3, 2:3, 3:4…
  • Try different points of view: eye level, high viewpoint, low viewpoint, far left, far right, zoom in for a closeup
  • Try different divisions of space: low horizon, high horizon, ‘L’ shape on the left, right, top, bottom
  • Try differing crops of the scene
  • Try different value patterns

It doesn't take more and a couple of minutes to do a small size sketch with a large felt tip pen so you don’t have a large investment of time in any individual sketch. Felt tips prevent you erasing any “mistakes”. Just move on and do another sketch. After you do 10, 20, 50, 100. Pick one or two that you like. Change the sketch size to double the original size and repeat the exercise on your selection. Reinforce the strongest aspects while de-emphasizing the weaker aspects.

It works for me. Try it. It may work for you.

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Old 03-19-2014, 09:19 AM
DaveCrow DaveCrow is offline
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Re: plein air direction

Why have you painted 100 plein air paintings that you don't like?

That represents a substantial commitment of time and money. If you don't like the results and would like to be doing paintings that are "more contemporary, current, and expressive" why aren't you?

The only requirement for a "plein air painting" is that it be painted en plein air. Size, format, subject, medium, style, composition, framing, all are wide open.

Some artists use their plein air paintings exclusively as references for studio works. Others rework them and complete the canvas in studio. Some consider the work done en plein air to be the finished work.

As for the notion that time is a limitation on plein air painting, only if you let it be. Nothing prevents an artist from return to the same spot to continue painting until the painting is finished.

Perhaps you would be happier painting studio paintings. There is no shame in this. Not every artist paints plein air. Take a step back and look at your assumptions about painting, not just plein air but painting in general. Also take an honest look at what you want to get out of painting and why you paint for recreation. Are you painting plein air landscape because that is what you want to paint or because it is what you feel you should paint? Are you painting in a style you don't like because. That is the style you feel you should paint in? What if there were no potential buyers, no art critics, no rules, how would you paint if the only person who had to be pleased with the result was you?

Look at paintings whose style you like. Study what works for you in them. Then think about how you can apply that to the subjects you are painting.

I paint in plein air in some the same locations as the Hudson River School painters did. My work is water colour heavily influence by Japonisme and the Group of Seven. Nothing like the Hudson River School, even though my easel may be planted in the same spot as theirs. Don't let the traditional way or the way everybody else is doing it get in the way of your enjoyment of painting.
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