Willard Metcalf, Gloucester
Above; Dennis Miller Bunker
I wanted to begin talking about finish by establishing that it is normal, and that fast and loose is not the only way to paint the impressionist landscape. I know that today there is a big trend toward one shot plein air work, but when you go to the museum to see impressionist work, the overwhelming number of them are not one shot paintings. I know that I am more interested in historicism that many of you are, and that's fine, it just interests me. But I like to try and get my roots down into our cultures history. The history of impressionist painting is not written in one shot 5 by 7's. I should restate that there is nothing wrong with the one shot thing, just that there is another way to go, and I prefer it. There are purists out there who have organizations that use some kind of a formula to determine if a piece is plein air or not. I don't join those organizations. I don't qualify. I do what ever it takes to make the painting. If that means returning for several days or working on a piece in the studio, that's fine with me.
I GET WAY TOO HUNG UP ON WHAT THE PAINTING ACTUALLY LOOKS LIKE!
Above and below are two paintings by Camille Pisarro. They are both impressionism, full of brushwork and color. They have life, vitality and aren't one shot paintings. They also have lots of drawing in them. They are not sloppy or careless in their handling. Every bit of them is carefully considered. The bar is set pretty high here. These are demanding pictures for an artist to make.
Notice the careful drawing in the tree on the right in the image above. It has been studied out. It is THAT tree and not a symbol for every tree. This is a drawing of the tree that is sure and highly finished. Incidentally none of these paintings are small, all are of middling size.
The Pissaro above contains all sorts of detail and it is all drawn out. It is shown in a sort of brushy shorthand, but that reflects the sureness of Pisarros drawing. If you want to get finish in your paintings you will have to be a good draftsman. Impressionist paintings that have more finish contain more drawing. So if I could throw out a first principle of finishing paintings, get the drawing "right". By right I don't mean so tightened up as to remove the playful brushwork and evocative description that is the fun in an impressionist painting, it is drawing of a different sort. Impressionist drawing is understated and related to the whole of the painting, it keeps its place within the general unity of the canvas.