Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Painting outdoors

Painting outdoors is one of the most pleasurable moments a painter can have, yet many students are afraid of giving it a try as they see it as the "great unknown".
"I wouldn't know where to start" is the explanation I hear most often.

I can sympathize. The world is a big place and it tends not to come in handy 6 x 4 or 7 x 5 inch slices. The biggest problem and therefore the the most important decision is to decide what to focus on.
My advice (which I keep reminding myself as well as my students) is 'not to bite off more than you can chew' especially to begin with. Be realistic about how much you can expect to achieve in the time available.

In my view, I think it is better to attempt three or four small sketches rather than one large painting which is unlikely ever to be finished.

Which leads us to the next problem. How much to include?

This is as much to do with composition or design as anything. Why paint an enormous sky and acres of foreground when probably an old gate beside a tree will have so much more to say? Likewise, if there is a building involved, whether a charming cottage or a tumble down old barn, consider if a small section or corner will have more interest than trying to paint every detail of the whole building.

Painting outside implies that time is short any way. The light will change, probably faster than you can paint, so keeping it small and concentrating on one aspect makes sense.

Think of using the time to gather information. Spending time LOOKING is never wasted.

Remember, a painting doesn't have to be an exact replica of the scene in front of you any more than it has to be an exact copy of a photograph. There should be room for the individual artist's interpretation. You may end up with a little gem, a painting in it's own right, or have the finest first-hand reference available when you later enlarge or interpret it in the studio.