Thursday, October 10, 2013


Almost anything can become an interesting painting…if we can see it right.  Too often, I think, we wrestle with seeing "things" rather than shapes, values and patterns.  Plein air painting can be tedious and disappointing work when we're laboring to paint what the literal, linear thinking part of our brain sees.  In that mode we tend to look for conventionally composed "scenes" in which we arrange the "things" we find.  There are a number of things I like to do to help make the shift to seeing interesting painting subjects.

Using a small viewfinder with a window that matches the proportions of my canvas or panel allows me to limit the overwhelming amount of information in the landscape and make selections whether intimate or panoramic.  Then, I can soften my vision, intentionally drifting out of hard focus, and stop mentally describing what I see as "barn", "tree", "boat", etc.  Instead, I'm looking for interesting patterns and contrasts in shapes, values and color.  When I come upon something of visual interest, I can begin to try-out cropping the view in a way that plays up the abstract qualities that have attracted my interest.

Now, I'm in a mode to think about what I can do to further enhance the subject, which is no longer the "thing" but the abstract, visual event.  I can eliminate things that clutter the subject of my arrangement.  I can re-arrange a bit to balance shapes and patterns better, to enhance the focal area, play-up contrasting values and color temperatures.  At this point the game is on, and my brain has slipped into that fun place where whatever skill I may have in drawing, and paint-handling comes into play.  Interestingly, seeing rightly causes us to improve our painting skills because they're freed from the task of depiction to be used as purposeful tools for bringing out what we find to beautiful.  Now that's fun!    

©Jimmy Longacre 2013
11x14 oil on canvas panel

Jimmy Longacre
Texas impressionist landscape paintings

MY BLOG: Paintbox & Easel

River's Edge Gallery Kerrville TX
Austin Street Gallery Rockport TX
Capital Fine Art Gallery Austin TX


  1. Oh so true! I wish I could have been reminded of this before I set out to paint this past Tuesday morning... the result of which= tedious, disappointing and too literal. Oh well, tomorrow is a fresh new blank canvas I suppose! Thanks for sharing.

  2. You sound like a genuine painter, Cory. That's the only attitude to have for a plein air painter. Write yourself a note about what you're going to look for and read it before you start to look. Don't take dictation! Best wishes.