Sunday, March 15, 2009
Beginning a painting on location
Here I am painting in Blue Hill, Maine. The hillside behind me is shown in several of Fitz H. Lanes 19th century paintings . This hill also overlooks the fairgrounds where Charlotte spun her web for E.B. Whites' Wilbur. I am always interested in the artistic heritage of the places where I paint.
When I arrive at a location I stomp back and forth in front of the scene I intend to paint. Doing this provides me with different foregrounds. As I move around, the foreground changes the most, as I catch different things in front of my more distant subject. Often I am looking for a foreground that will lead my viewer into the painting. The distant parts of the subject usually don't change too much as I do this. Eventually I find what I call the power spot.
I set up my easel so that its back leg faces towards the sun. This puts my canvas in the shade, which is essential. All sorts of problems can arise from having the sun on your painting as you work. Avoid it if you can. I don't carry an umbrella but many artists do, for this reason.
I ask myself next, "Why am I here, and not in some other place" What is it that is special about this one place? Sometimes I will ask myself "whats the name of this painting" I try then to envision the painting I intend to make. I don't do thumbnails before beginning to paint, but its a good idea if you have the discipline. As I am doing these things I have prepared my palette by replacing any of the colors that have run out and readying my brushes, mediums etc.
Previsualizing a painting is a valuable skill. If you can close your eyes and get a good idea of what the painting is going to look like, you will "pull off" a far higher percentage of your paintings and avoid some of the problems that can pop out as a painting progresses. Try to get, and then stick with plan A.
I also think about where the sun is going to go and what that will do to the landscape over the hours that I will be working there. Sometimes I can guess what is likely to happen next and that can be a big help in designing the picture. It can also help me to avoid setting up to paint a scene that will be gone or radically different shortly after I begin to work.
I then stop and silently pray to God to help me make this painting. If you are not a praying person, I suggest you take a moment to gather your thoughts, clear your mind, meditate or do whatever the hell atheists need to do before they paint.
More tomorrow on painting outside.