The following is pasted here from discussion in another forum and thread, thoughts I decided I'd like not to bury in another thread and which might be appropriate to this thread's topic.
The topic of the former thread was whether many mix as they go painting on the fly...some offering their own reasons why...but many seemed to opt for the on the fly mix as you go
Since that preference was also mine for near 27 years of painting until more recently studying Payne and Gruppe, I don't criticize or discount what can be done with it, or that one can become skilled and capable going that route. In fact, as an art instructor...I taught many how to become skilled painting on the fly. I am coming to believe as I get a bit older, however...that there might be advantages, perhaps more saneness in slipping into attaining skill and facility, avoiding perhaps much heartache, trial and error, frustration or even thoughts of giving up. With that in mind...I paste my thoughts here for consideration....
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yep...one learning to paint directly, mixing on the fly definitely develops (and must) a sense of working on impulse...intuitively, and arriving at the place is fun.
That was how I painted, and often still paint...but my eyes were made to open working with students in workshop situations. For one...there is no avoiding the making of many many paintings, and often bad ones...to happen upon an eventual facility to paint effectively on the fly and without premixing.
I am encouraged to see so many participating in the thread that have worked out that sticktoitiveness and daring.
Working with adults though...I came to discover that what came so easy for me was not such an easy proposition for them. We so easily forget we were willing to bear the burden and overcome our moments, and we presume others should simply be able to grab their own bootstraps and do the same. As an instructor...one cannot afford such propositions, for it won't meet the needs of many that want to become capable painters. What will happen is you might work thru the workshop...holding the hands and cheerleading each participant to at least produce one half-way decent painting for the workshop, but several weeks after you have gone...they are once more alone with their inhibitions, intimidations, frazzled by nature throwing things at them and doing bad paintings.
As I told my last group of students...guaranteeing one good work for their workshop effort might be a bit like buying someone hungry a plate of fish, whereas teaching them how to fish could help them feed themselves and family from that time on.
Its easy for us as instructors to simply shrug our shoulders and count such folks as perhaps not having the right stuff, perhaps not as serious about painting such that the moment of heat reveals their lack of substance and fortitude. Besides...we can relax knowing they're going to have to paint 100 more paintings regardless of what could be taken in in one workshop anyway, to get a feel for it.
However...I have to be honest...when adult students get a good sense of what foundational principles and systems are about, they get a handle on their fears, inhibitions. Their confidence falls upon tried and true approaches by predecessors, and thus a failure may be more a sign of making one error in thinking the matter thru then as an inevitable indication they are simply not meant to be a painter.
Anyone teaching workshops will know many adults nearly have a small inner child that fears failing and looks for the first indications of such to call it quits and a day.
As a painter and instructor...I find teaching opportunities time to observe others and learn myself. So...I applaud myself, and many others that have endeavored and feel confident about painting directly and what one sees, but I began premixing more as a necessity to make painting less a mystery for my students. In the process of observing students, what works for them and why...I actually learned more about painting for myself and the wisdom of past painter/instructors such as Edgar Payne and Emile Gruppe.
A painting that doesn't turn out might be simply choosing the wrong dominant root color to begin with...and in hindsight, the student is charged up once more to give it another go realizing the fault was in the wrong choice and not in the futility of their hopes to be a painter. This is a benefit of premixing.
I mention this not as a cause for argument, for I am already a direct on the fly painter myself and have been for near 30 years. Especially since 20 of those years was painting acrylics, and premixing doesn't work too well where paint dries near immediately. hahaaaa....
I mention this to confess I saw little value or need for premixing until I began using it more as an approach with students. Immediately these students, even with little experience...began to see creative options and aesthetic choices. Their confidence attached to understanding was impetus to begin new efforts again and again.
Let's face it...one of the hurdles we face and must overcome in learning to paint direct and on the fly is how to orchestrate, direct and wind up with a work that holds together in co-hesive unity and harmony. It requires many paintings under our belt, the process of eliminating the many prior road blocks, traps, and underpinnings...to gain hindsight, and develop the speed to get an idea down before nature's light changes. It's a tall order to start a painting with one available light and see it thru carrying a similar lighting long after the whole lighting has altered. Many paintings under the belt will in time provide confidence one can accomplish this, and this confidence is what makes painting on the fly mixing as you go both a challenge and fun to conqueor.
Many folks just don't have that fortitude, strength of character, or patience to see success to that end.
It has caused me to be a motivator, an encourager, and one that holds to many quotes to pick up the spirit of the discouraged and see that there is no other way to arrive eventually at successful works but the pains of seeing many poor and failing efforts thru to get there. I've used Churchill's quote often...still do, that says..."success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm"....and Degas who said, "painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do!"
True...dues must be paid, but premixing for the most part is senseless and ridiculous if not part of a plan. Its beauty and logic, reasonableness is when it is understood to pre'empt and thus carry out a plan.
Funny thing is...many of us as artists are of the character where we do not like plans, rigidity, formula and so forth. We don't like restraint...and resent that if we were a mighty train engine that we would have to be held to those tracks. We'd prefer to jump tracks...but in so doing, we would entrench our heavy engine into the mud going nowhere.
It is that going "nowhere" feeling that many painters (especially attempting plein air) must wrestle thru...and many not successfully. They are especially frustrated when it appears others have worked thru.
Train tracks do however serve to give the engine purpose. Going from point "A" to point "B" might be restrictive, but it gives credence to why the engine was designed and employed to begin with. When an engine is worked out of the mud...many days later and with great effort, philosophically and metaphorically...one learns to appreciate finding one's purpose, and being able to open up and speed along one's course brings a new and refreshing sense of finding one's self.
So...a direction that is time honored and proven will show the engine that didn't think it could...that in reality, it is an engine that can.
What Payne argues for....is that a foundational working idea in time will lead the mature artist to freely follow their intuition and gut hunch. Sorta like that engine opening up and lettin' er fly down the tracks.
You will find it difficult for one...to opt to choose a dominant color and set up a split-complementary palette to arrive at a desire effect if you have to mix up those splits over and over and over again. Much easier (especially for the beginner to intermediate) to be taught to mix up a pile of a dominant...and then assign the splits, then setting them up....and go.
The underpainting/block-in for the direct on the fly painter is a God send...for it cuts a lot of the guess work, a lot of what might have to be otherwise thought thru, and gives the feeling of control. It helps get what the light is doing, down..and quickly.
Another thing that I've been coming to now..after about 10-11 years of plein air painting is that "why paint this scene?" thing.
I submit its possible in time to arrive to a place where simply recording what one sees begins to feel as though less in touch with nature, really. As though outward appearance alone is all there is to nature.
Hard to explain except to compare it to a romance and marriage.
I will be married thirty years this next coming February...and it does get better and better. It was not simply possible for me to know what I know about my wife all in the first couple years...and she becomes more and more beautiful to me, but such beauty extends beyond simply her outward appearance.
This tends (especially in our culture) to be the all in all in dating and romance, to find one's ideal attraction...but we all know that is cheap and shallow.
So...after awhile...painting on location one begins to feel MORE from nature. Perhaps one must exhaust what nature looks like to begin to get that, and why some artists seem to arrive at that so early in their painting career and others later (like myself), I'm not quite so sure.
But...experimenting with systems of time honored past traditions in alla prima methods...toying from Schmid..S.Christensen, to John Carlson...Hawthorne, E.Payne and Gruppe...I am beginning to get a sense there is more to nature, a deeper level...an intimacy these preplanned foundational systems are helping to uncover and disclose.
Painting not just what nature looks like to me...but feels
like to me.
I see Bill Wray's paintings here...in urban settings. Now...if I were to simply paint what I saw set up next to Bill...I would surmise my work would be vastly different. (well...different regardless...), but Bill has a way to paint the scene that rings and connects to how we might leave the area feeling
of it. If that makes sense.
I think Bills emotive painting ways are more liberated...but to a degree many painters here have an emotive way about them. Lee's New York bridges, his arches and so forth, his hazy air, spacey convincing distances...they do more than tell us about New York...but we get a "feel" for New York.
One may in time come to be comfortable with arriving eventually to their on the fly manner...and consistent work may in time come to identify the artist. I did...and my work for many years carried a look that identified it as mine. I am, howver...coming to realize as an instructor of art and painting that it is possible to come to greater quicker understanding of why somethig works and what I want to MAKE work for myself by experimenting and using palette strategies.
A palette strategy
that does not begin with a plan or idea of intent, is no strategy at all.
Now...the plan may not be obvious. A block in...wipe the palette clean, and then go on the fly is afterall a plan. We can make it work...if we see it thru and pay our dues. Just don't totally discount there are benefits to palette strategies. There is a rhyme and a reason to the genuis, the mastery, and the results of past masters such as Payne and Gruppe, and it is there for us to consider and borrow from.
Plans...other than the on the fly
palette will require some organizing of intentions and directions, and is most reasonably managed when premixing. The short list of palettes I provided in my last post will require it...and they result in paintings of a style or intent that are predictable to the moment and mood you want.
I fully believe that when I chose a split-complementary palette and reddish undertone to do this one last weekend...
...that it would really ring true to the moment, not only how it looked, but also how it felt. I more or less experimented trying the split-complementary strategy to see if it would turn out that way, and it did. I knew that were I to simply paint on the fly allowing gut hunch and mixing as I go...that I would have pretty much arrived at the near same result...which would have been easy enough for me after so many years of painting, but in truth had a particular ease about it as an elected pre-thought out strategy, that no doubt would serve newer younger painters.
So...as I am learning from workshops that a number of my students have been long time lurkers here at WC, never participating- so often never addressing their concerns and making them known, if you are beginning to paint plein air, entertaining it or between a novice and intermediate and a lurker to this thread today...there remains a choice beyond painting on the fly mixing as you go- not decrying the one, but espousing the benefits to consider of the other.
Many artists (as you read and continue to read) have come to overcome obstacles, have been stubborn to the point of developing eventual ability and facility painting on the fly mixing as they go...but, if the proposition of that is a bit overwhelming and you struggle to keep the faith, keep trying beyond one failure to the next...then I'd recommend getting your hands if possible on Edgar Payne's "Composition of Outdoor Painting" and borrow from your library Emile Gruppe's book, "Brushwork for the Oil Painter" and come to see that many successful painters and past plein air traditions relied upon proven and working systematic strong approaches.
There will ALWAYS be time after spending some length growing with a palette strategy and pre-mixing to see your confidence soar, your gut hunch begin to take over...and intuit to your heart's content. See such as a launching pad. There is much to be covered and gone over before liftoff...and sometimes sitting in that shuttle it may seem that it is always about lifting off. However, once in space...you will find it is time for you to go about your business. It is in preparation and takeoff that will get you there.
Its all about enjoying painting...but as well all know, the education and dues paid getting us to that point is not always about fun, nor easy. So whether you get there trial and error, paint as you go...on the fly, learn as you fail, as you succeed...or with some fundamental system as a way to go about it that may encourage mixing up your color, (also paying dues...but with an order that makes it more manageable and clarifies matters taking heat off of a lot of moments of self-doubting)...understand its worth getting there...to that point where painting is joy and celebration.
To all....forgive the rant, thank you for your indulgence and tolerance... just thought I'd share from a position of hindsight I think...perhaps from an old fool...who knows.