Saturday, May 5, 2012

Plein air idea 7

Tonight's idea is this. Drawing in the landscape is often about sorting. We sort the spots and shapes in front of us into two piles,  THE LIGHTS AND THE DARKS.  Every time we make a mark on the canvas that represents something in front of us, we sort it into one pile or the other. Just like sorting the laundry. This thing is dark, this one is light. Everything goes into one of those two piles, the lights or the darks.


 Every time your brush touches the canvas you must know absolutely what pile the note goes in.

A painting is best when either the lights or the darks are dominant. That is, the painting has discernibly more area that is dark than is light, or it has more light area than dark. An equal balance of the two is static looking.  A relatively small number of large shapes makes the best painting because a simple design carries better than a fragment complex one. 

To reduce the number of separate shapes, it is good to link your darks together when you can. A simple arrangement of a few darks and a few lights in an artistically unequal arrangement is the best start for a successful painting. If you don't have a strong simple arrangement, it is best to wipe out your start and try again. Without the foundation of a sound and attractive design, you can add detail and finish all you want and your painting will never be first rate. A strong design and a simple effective pattern of lights and darks should be the goal of your lay-in.

Once you have established that pattern of lights and darks, hold to it. As the light changes, our pattern remains pretty much the same. Don't follow the light, not unless it does something really interesting later in the day, but then only that change and then leave it alone.The forbearance and discipline to leave your original statement rather than changing it all day long takes practice. But if you don't learn this, your painting will crawl across your canvas as the light changes and you will be chasing a  will-o-the- wisp that you can never catch...until suddenly the sun drops behind the trees and you are startled, confused and defeated.


Edo Hannema said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Very intresting and helpful!

Regards Edo said...

This is an excellent series of really good, basic principles for plein air. Linking either the light or dark pattern for good design...great reminder. Thank you!

William R. Moore said...

Some good examples would be great here. I think understanding design for landscape is very confusing. Do you design using the dark/light pattern of light and shadow? Do you design the dark/light pattern of local color ( this might be the only way on an overcast day)? Do you combine the two? How does this all fit with Carlson's thoughts on the four planes/angles of the landscape. Some of the impressionist paintings had little or no dark/light pattern.

I really enjoy seeing when a painter shows a photograph of the motif along with the painting. Inclusion of commentary on their thought process would have been very beneficial. I have recently seen a few posted with fine paintings. Seeing the motif photo, I wondered what possessed them to even bother but they organized the elements and painted a fine painting.

I realize this is a post on Plein Air ideas and not design but I would appreciate similar posts covering design in more detail. I think others would also benefit.

Thanks for sharing,

janice skivington said...

I have benefited so much from your series of Plein air instruction. Today I am going to paint at a 3 hour life session and I think your advice about sorting lights and darks will also apply as I work from a model.
If you ever give a painting seminar in the Chicago area, I would like to attend. My husband who is not a Thoracic surgeon agrees because I so often mention your good advice.

Robert J. Simone said...

Good principle oriented instruction in this series. Don't really think it's lacking in any way. A good instructor realizes that articulating principles is what is important. A good student realizes it's up to him to figure out how to incorporate the principles into his work. This to requires forbearance.

Anonymous said...

Do you find it makes a difference to lay in the darks first? Capture the shadows and lock then in?

stermyn said...

Yesterday I participated in my first ever "paint out" in Old Lyme CT. I had studied all 7 Plein air blog posts and was ready. The day was GREY, the location was a field surrounded by a very green forest. No opportunity to create tidy piles of lights and darks, no shadows to make interesting by casting complimentary color into, no light to chase...
Thanks to previous tutorials, I got into mixing interesting greens and greys on a whole new and spent more careful time painting trees than ever before. At the end of the day I had completed two small landscapes: Pastoral #1 Harmony in Green and Grey; Pastoral #2 Clucas Fields, Springtime. Out of the 80 signed up to paint the Clucas Fields in Old Lyme, only 25 or so showed, probably because of the grey and green issue.

Never have I had to rely so heavily on the principles of Plein air painting and feel as though it was meant to be to enforce the INSTALL don't render rule.

Hopefully the jury will appreciIate the cloudy day pictures when displayed with what today's participants had to work with, a bit of siunlight. Juried paintings will be exhibited in the Lyman Allyn Museum CT.

Thank you Stapleton for the Plein air tutorials!