Friday, January 20, 2012

Inside or Outside. Which is best?

November Noon Cypress   8x10    oil

I see much opinion expressed by artists about the superiority of painting outdoors over studio work, yet many painters who call themselves plein-air painters do much of their work in the studio, using paintings done outdoors as reference, along with photos. (Melinda Collins)

For me, and many other outdoor painters, the answer is definitely "both".  

When I'm outside with my paint box, I have to go fast, using what skills I have to make the best decisions I can, as quickly as possible.  The light is changing, shadow patterns are moving, color relationships mutate.  There just isn't time to lay back and ponder what I may do, or to be too finicky about the compositional arrangement or details.  You have to go with what you know, while pushing the boundaries of what you're learning.  

This little painting (above) is a field study, not a finished work.  While I wouldn't take this to a gallery, the information I gathered will be very useful to me in the studio when I design a more fully considered composition.  Without the plein air study, I would have no connection to the beauty I saw, the color relationships that moved me, how I felt, or what the day was like.  All of that comes back when I'm back at the easel in my studio, with  the study, my digital photos of the scene, notes I made, and my aroused memory of that moment.  Also, I know of no better or faster way to get better at handling paint, which is not only a main factor in gaining speed, but it develops my own unique technical approach.

Plein-air paintings are life, and without them the rest of my work would die. Without it, I would have nothing to say in the studio, because without real-life experience, art is impossible. (Scott Burdick)  

Not That Long Ago   16x20    oil

When I'm inside at my easel, I can plan and plot at leisure.  I can experiment with values,  the arrangement of the elements, improve color harmony, and so on.  The above painting is an example of that.  It's still a learning experience, but a couple of things are at work.  First, the enjoyment of becoming fully occupied with trying to express in paint something that moved me. Then, there's the conscious application and development of what I've been learning about painting (this, of course, never ends).  The results are different, but it was the outside experience that enabled me to orchestrate things, and hopefully retain some of the freshness of how the paint is handled.

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