Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Plein air, idea 4

Idea number 4 is controlling your pixel size. You can grab that big brush and make your picture out of larger pixels!  I could call them  brushmarks or sense units, they are bricks you are using to construct your lay in. If you are laying in your canvas with a large brush it is possible to make only large generalized marks representing nature. If those marks are all .......say,  the same size as a walnut, you would be working in walnut sized chunks.

If  you were working like Willard Metcalf, that is in small rice-like strokes, you would have thousands of strokes on your over-the-sofa sized oil. If  you are making a brushstroke the size of a walnut, that number might drop to a couple hundred or so. That sounds like a lot of pixels still, but it is a manageable amount of decisions over a fairly short period of time. Little tiny marks make for a slower lay in. It slows you way down when you have to corral  ten thousand little marks instead of a few hundred.

This is plein air, the clock is running, and it is nice to make a painting in one shot if you can. When I lay in a canvas I try to make no marks smaller than a walnut. I make bigger marks than that, maybe, but not smaller. I would do this over a simple line drawing in very thin, transparent paint, roughing out the largest elements of the picture and having a rhythmic flow. I, personally, do not want to be arrhythmic. Once I looked at whole show of my paintings and realized "Oh NO! they are arrhythmic!" I  have since tried to make sure my paintings had some rhythm or flow to them.. I see a lot of arrhythmic pictures out there. Looks "square".

Imagine these pixels or marks, as tiles, ordinary tile like you put on a wall. You mix those tiles up on your palette, out of paint, and then lay them onto that over-the-sofa sized oil. It would also be handy to mix up a pile or two of colors which recur frequently in that rank of two hundred walnut sized pixels.

If I lay tile onto my canvas in big pieces, often I am doing this in transparent or monotone. I like to keep lay ins thin, I often have to push a painting around a bit at first to get it to work. As I said last night, white is a problem if you plan on making any errors.

I should add that if you are painting five by sevens, this doesn't really apply to you. I guess I am speaking of working much larger, as I do as a matter of course.You can use a larger brush and apply the same technology, but my experience has been that that this works better on a larger canvas.

The beauty of this "big chunk" lay in is that it keeps your picture "big". You are painting "broadly". It is hard to get hung up in any detail when you are using a number 10 flat and making chunks the size of calling cards. Can you cover an over-the-sofa sized oil with only a hundred strokes? You could work in hamburger sized chunks! You might cover the whole canvas with forty of them. Forty good decisions and there is your painting, on the canvas, wanting only for refinement, with a smaller brush here and there.

When you have completed this big stroke version of the painting you can always drop detail onto the big lay in you have made. Or you could select some characteristic details and distribute them as accents on your painting. Usually it is good to subordinate the details to the larger shapes upon which they ride. I guess that's another post though.


whinebelt said...

Hi Stape! It's nice to see that you're posting again!

Could you please give an example of what you, in this case, mean by an arrythmic painting that "looks square" or explain it further? Are you talking about composition or brushstrokes regarding this "squarness"?

Stapleton Kearns said...

I meant square in the sense of not hip.
.............Stape said...

There are probably a few experienced painters that can do an excellent one shot outdoor painting. BUT I have never seen a one shot come off the canvas that couldn't use studio corrections. Plies aire artists can be very rigid about this one shot idea. I was hoping thaat some one explain that to me..

Sarah Faragher said...

"...a manageable amount of decisions over a fairly short period of time..."

LOVE that. Such a good practical reason to start with a big brush when painting outside (and remain with that big brush for as long as possible).

This series of posts is great. Thanks. Glad to see you back.

One bit of criticism - please reconsider your use of the pronoun "he" when you refer to a person (as in the last post, in the all-caps bit at the end). Kinda off-putting. Otherwise, I love what you say and how you say it.

Linda Schweitzer said...

Really good idea, Stape! I'll have to try it. I had been missing your posts... Glad you are writing again!

Cynthia Hillis McBride said...

You can say HE all you want as long as you continue to share your expertise with us through these posts.

Call us anything you want, but do continue to write, time allowing that is. ;o)

Sonya Johnson said...

So good to see you posting again, and I am greatly enjoying this series of posts. At this time, I'm only doing plein air work in pastel and oils in my studio, but I will be remembering these practical tips when I do bring my oil painting operation out on the road at some point.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I actually had "they", and my female editor changed it. He(or she) is proper usage.
"The viewer" is singular, "he" agrees with that. They is plural.

Judy P. said...

Stape, from this post and the previous, if you are keeping a painting transparent (no white) at first, aren't you starting with an awfully dark painting? I really try to do that, but if most of the painting is mid-tone, or maybe a sunny day, don't you have to hit that white soon? For me, I end up with a dark-value painting, because it's hard to go back to gauge the values correctly. I'm really trying to work on this, and I'm getting a headache.

Richard said...

You use the word "tile" for big marks. I thought you might be interested to know that the word "Pochade" comes from the word "stencil" in French meaning big, broad marks. Richard

Philip Koch said...

Darn it but these new posts are fun, and useful.

It's so helpful to hear how another painter puts these ideas into words. After all, we're dealing not so much with "ideas" as visions. Wrapping words around those slippery things can be tricky.

Al Skaar said...

This is a great series. Wish I'd had some guidelines like this when I was starting out. But I'm glad to find them now because I have enough experience to realize how valuable they are. Thanks!

Arty Quin said...

I've found your blog to be very informative. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and skill!

David Teter said...

Happy to see you back at it. No matter how experienced we are we can never hear some things often enough.
Whenever I forget, I remind myself to go back to fundamentals for problem solving. It always works.

Judy P -
as Stapes post says... "When we are laying in a picture on a white canvas we are generally delineating the darks and leaving the white of the canvas behind for the lights in the earliest stages of the drawing."

I had an instructor who believed oilists (oil painters) should first learn to paint in watercolor before they are allowed to touch oils.
Watercolor is generally less forgiving... you must spare out the white of the paper for the lights, forcing you to really look at what you are doing early in the painting.
Shape, composition etc.

Judy P. said...

It's great to have Stape writing again, because along with it we get to read other skilled comments.
David J.-
Thanks for the watercolor analogy; it also makes me think to thin the oils even more at first, that way e.g. a thinner wash of can represent a lighter value, until I make a final decision. I can tell this is a problem that only more practice will solve.

Unknown said...

Being relatively new to these posts, it appears I must have missed out on a lot in the past! That being said, I'm REALLY enjoying what is being written now ... informative and entertaining at the same time - what more could one ask for??!! - note the non-gender reference there ... ;)