Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Importance of Plein Air Painting

About a week ago I was rereading an interview with Joseph McGurl that really made an impression on me. It was in American Artist, March 2009. Here is the piece I hear over and over again in my brain.

AA: What is your plein air process? How important is it to you to create on-site studies and sketches, as opposed to using photographs as references for your studio work?

Joseph McGurl: I am trying to portray my response to the real world—not a flat visual representation of it. I am trying to paint the whole tree, even the side you can’t see. I am also trying to paint a living tree that will die in the winter and bloom again in the spring. Science has taught us that space and time are not static and that on the subatomic level there is a frenzy of activity. Knowing this, I cannot paint from a photo that is devoid of all these realities. I am also trying to understand nature in the most complete way possible, and studying it intently while interpreting it in paint is the most effective way I know to accomplish this. The challenge of going into the field with just my paints and coming away with a useful picture is also appealing. Sometimes I don’t have enough time to capture a certain effect, but that’s just the way it goes. It’s difficult relying on just my own observations, and it may seem easier to paint from photos, but my goal isn’t to do it the easiest way but the best way. Like everyone, I sometimes have tendencies to be lazy, and if I know I have a photo to back me up, I may not look as hard or work as long at the sketch as I should.

With this on my mind I left the house to paint this early morning.While "the product" is not a good painting. It did provide me with  tremendous insights about the light.    If I had just looked at a photo I would not have know the numerous small nuances of temperature shifts or the way the left tree seemed plum colored bu really the light had affected it to also have a ochre green glow on top. So my advice agrees with Joseph McGurl...nothing replaces being there. The more saturated you become with noticing (whether by practicing memory paintings or plein air) the better a painter you will become.                            

Good news for all my blogger friends who reply through the email feedburner sends to you.... my good friend Domi fixed the email reply!!!! Yay! So if you have replied to my daily email and haven't heard from me, don't worry I haven't ignored you. It never got to me.


SamArtDog said...

Painting the back side of the tree is what you do so well. I swear I can see the far side of this hill.

Donna T said...

There's nothing like being there, that's for sure. I disagree about this not being a good painting - it's an honest interpretation of what you saw and felt and it has the softest fall atmosphere and gorgeous, harmonious colors.

loriann said...

Thanks so much Sam. I am a little bit of the backside;-)

Hi Donna, being there tells sooo much! Thank you about the painting...but still....... I hope you are sleeping better.