Painting Large in Plein Air |

Painting Large in Plein Air

Yesterday I took a studio painting that I just wasn't quite happy with back out on location to see if I could infuse it with more life.  Here's a look at the finished result, but it took lots of steps to get it here:


This is a 24x30 oil painting that in started in the studio.  I have a bunch of in-process shots that I'll share here, showing how I started by toning the canvas and blocking in my dark abstract shapes:




In this next shot I finally have the whole canvas covered for the first time.  This is a critical point because it is only at this juncture that I start come truly compare all the elements of the painting.

I have a shape problem in the lower right I haven't resolved.  At this point I start to adjust values and color temperature to try to bring up a sense of luminosity in the painting.



This next picture is how I set the painting aside in my studio.  I wasn't quite happy with it, and I was busy with lots of other work.  I knew I wanted to come back to it when the time was right ...


Yesterday on a lark I saw that the weather was going to be ideal on the coast.  I loaded and took off, throwing this painting in the back of my van just in case the light was similar enough to let me work on it.  As luck would have it, the light was relatively similar and there was very little wind so I could setup this large canvas and make adjustments to infuse more life into the piece.  The waves were quite different and the light direction had moved quite a bit in the months since I was last at the location - so much so that the big right rock mass was no longer backlit (it was brightly lit).  I had to be careful to keep my design and shadow patterns and avoid chasing the new scene, but there was lots of good information I could use.


Here you can see the changes in the light patterns

There is just no substitute for painting from life.  The colors and values are so much more interesting.  Even though I was using a plein air study as reference for the studio piece, I just found that I wasn't getting the sense of life I wanted in the piece.  Bringing a big studio piece back on location is a terrific way to finish off a big piece.  Sometimes it can take upwards of a year or more to get back to the same location with similar enough lighting conditions - but I think the wait is well worth it.