There will be no introduction words from me about landscape painting. Every art student knows what it is. It is painting a small or a large portion of Nature on canvas. This we call Landscape Painting.
But there are many questions …Working in plein air, Working in studio from outdoor sketches, Working from photos or Working from Imagination. Which is the right approach?
Here are the answers …
Working in plein air
If you work in plein air, your painting will have movement and color freshness. Reason for this is, you have to work from a scene which extends for a couple of miles or from a smaller part of it on your small canvas which is usually of one or one and half feet size. So to capture that large area on your small canvas, first thing you have to ignore is details. You have to paint only large and medium shapes. This act itself brings some life into a painting and it also leads to movement. This movement helps avoids static feeling. Static feeling means lifelessness.
Next… color. Why plein air paintings will have some color freshness even is they are painted by amateurs? Usually color will lose its freshness by over mixing with other colors. In studio, you have plenty of time to mix colors so if you over do a little bit of it, it causes muddiness. That means losing freshness of color. In plein air it won’t happen. The reason … you won’t have much time to work in outdoors like in studio. And for every hour direction of light changes, sometimes fast moving winds, heat, dust, unexpected rains along with many unforeseen problems will push you to do the things quickly. So you have to come to quick judgement about shapes and color of the nature. Then you don’t have much time to make your colors muddy. Result … your colors will appear more fresh on the canvas.
Loose brush strokes, color freshness and less details, you will get them in plein air even if you are a just beginner.
Working in the studio from outdoor sketches
This will be a big problem if you don’t have the right knowledge about value, color and composition. I told you already that when you work in outdoors, your work will have some plus points even is you are an amateur artist but when you want to develop them as finished paintings the, the problem starts.
Now you will have leisure time on your hands, you have a comfortable environment where you won’t face any disturbance such as fast moving winds, changing light etc …. How nice it is! You will think that you can work more comfortably in that environment than in outdoors. In fact the problem will start from that moment.
Problem one … Now you have plenty of time to work your picture so you will try to find where you can add detail. Result – More detail leads to static feel. Problem two … You will try to mix different color tints and greys and you will paint them on your picture. Result – More color mixtures lead to muddiness and losing freshness of color. Problem three … loosing of loose brush strokes. Result – This also creates static appearance.
Now you may ask me, there are many artists who work in their studios using outdoor sketches and photographs, what about them?
Yes. Many artists work that way. But all of them have a good understanding about value, color and composition which are the keys to do a successful painting. If you have that knowledge like them you can also work from your studio by using reference.
Note this, If you understand value, color and composition along with few more elements, definitely
you can also work from your studio.
Working from Photos
For a student working from photos is not a wise thing. In photos darks will become more darker. So you are not able to judge color of dark. Darks are transparent, you won’t be able to see that transparent nature in photos. And other problem with photos is, they are condensed images of the vast nature. When you see the images of nature in small size print, like 8×10 inches … just imagine, what is there for you to see! Nothing. Those small photo prints will deceive you about the true essence of nature.
So, note this… without understanding nature and its wholeness working from photos will be hopeless. You may ask me,…” Then is it not possible to work from photos? ”
Sure, You can work from photos but before that, you must understand mother nature. Observe it, analyse it, imprint the images in your heart, then you can use photos. In this approach those photos will become only a source. You are not painting from them, you are using them for inspiration. This is one part of doing a painting, along with this there is another part, you need to study to create a powerful painting. That is the technical aspect. That technical aspect concerns with Value, Color, Composition and few more elements of art. In coming pages I will discuss about these.