Friday, March 21, 2014

When Plein Air Works

When a plein air painting works, it's very gratifying. When it doesn't, it can sap your confidence and cause you to question whether you have any ability at all. After two days in a row of "scrapers" I'm compelled to analyze why the results were so pitiful.

I like this one- Winter Day on Navarre Beach - that I did in February. It's energetic, it contains the right amount of information and it has the feel of the place.

Winter Day on Navarre Beach
see it here
So what went wrong today and yesterday? Yesterday's failure I can understand. I was trying something I'd never done before. I was looking towards the sun and trying to capture the sheen of the sun on the water. The values of the sky against the sea and the reflection of the sun's light on the water were a challenge. Two hours later and with fried eyeballs, I had to admit defeat. I know though that the subject is well worth another try.

Today was a different matter. I stood at the river's edge looking at a low building that was shadowed in green blue. The lightest note in the scene was the glare on it's metal roof. Grey trees behind it enhanced the simple mood and palette. Two or three dark pines provided contrast. To the left was a pale blue railroad trestle over the river. 
If I had stuck to what had first attracted me - the shadowed building and the contrast of dark and pale in the foliage around it- I'd have done fine. But the curved riverbank was so pretty and the water was so tempting. And what a gorgeous soft blue on the trestle! You guessed it! I tried to put it all in. Daylight faded and my canvas became a sticky mess as I adjusted and re-adjusted a composition that should have been stated in the first ten minutes.  But now that I know why it failed, I'm ready to head out again tomorrow.
I don't think I'll throw my paints out just yet.
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