Change-up my game
For many year I’ve persisted in painting from life whenever possible. This has included everything from landscapes and ocean pieces to the commissioned portraiture that comes my way. I tremendously enjoy the engagement that comes from being in-the-moment with the subject I’m painting, and will continue to do so as long as I’m able.
But recently I’ve been looking to improve on some of this because there is an obstacle within my approach, that of becoming overly-occupied with the purely visual (which I do love) and not allowing enough consideration to other matters. Working with the subject constantly before me has at times led to some poor decisions in composition, color, and emphasis over the years. The more I look at the paintings that I admire, the more I see my future progress in terms of designing more unique and thoughtfully composed paintings, if I am able to.
The approach I’m adapting is to create paintings by starting with an imaginary sketch of what I think is an ideal design. From this point, I gradually gather my other resources (drawings and color sketches done at the location) to combine and develop a third and final work. This tips the see-saw in favor of a structured and inspired composition, and away from relying on finding a decent arrangement in nature where one may not really exist. This final amalgamation may be painted in-studio over time, with the advantage of the color sketch done from nature providing actual color notes and shapes. This is different than relying on photography, because I’ll have mixed the color combinations before when sketching and will not have to skirt the yawning trap of reliance on photographs.
In case you were wondering, this is nothing new; it’s actually an older approach than the generally impressionist approach I’ve been cultivating for so long. As I find myself getting older, I’m looking to make use of all of my accumulated experiences painting before nature, but also to be able to direct my energy to the larger, more carefully composed paintings that can’t be done in the wind and weather.
This small (5 x 7″) watercolor sketch, based on a scene I’ve painted before, is an arrangement that I thought I’d like to impose on the actual subject. It’s from my mind’s eye, an arrangement of simple shapes and colors that I think are better than what I see at the location. This allows me to move shapes and emphasize what I find helps the painting. All of this is studio work done in advance, employing a little daydreaming and composing that I can’t do when I’m outdoors, primarily chasing the light effect.
Later, I went to the actual location and painted this oil sketch (9 x 12″, below) This contains enough factual information, like color of water, shadows, rocks, to combine with the imaginary sketch above for the composition of a final piece, which may be in watercolor, oil, or pastel, and at any size I decide.
This will be a great advancement if I can make it work. I’m planning a full-sheet (22 x 30″)watercolor from these two resources which would be quite difficult to achieve outdoors. A small scale version of the final piece in pencil is today’s project, and I may get to the final piece later this week. I’m enthused!
I’ll keep you posted.