Tuesday, March 29, 2011

the color of light and the importance of painting plein air

5x10 pastel on watercolor on Uart

After completing my re-creation of the Needwood Pond image from memory (yesterday's post), I knew that I had to go to the site and paint plein air. Painting outdoors is a whole different can of worms compared to studio painting. Outdoors it is so easy to get wrapped up in what is there, instead of what is the essence of what you are painting. You can easily become distracted by details. (I suppose that is why memory painting is so essential.)  I can not stress enough that outdoor painting is very important. It helps build an understanding of landscape and light that you will NEVER get from a photograph. So here are some tips.
When working outdoors remember:
1. Study the landscape you have chosen to paint. Do not even pick up a pencil. Study.
2. Talk to yourself. Articulate why you are painting this particular landscape. Concept is key.
3. Next think if you were just going to memorize what would you need to know? Know deep inside what it is
4. Identify the color of the light. Notice how it changes the color of everything. This light was very yellow...a bright yellow, veering towards white. Did I want white? No? So I leaned more yellow.
5. After you have studied and made sketches or 3 value notans, only then begin. Stick to your value map.
6. Look more at the painting than the scene. Trust that you know the scene. Look to confirm.
7. Always remember it is about the concept/feeling and good planning pays off in the end.

Thank you friends for all the studio building information I have received- keep it coming!
We are looking at the financial aspects. The main two choices are:
Do we combine both  north facing- master bedroom (my present studio is the old master bedroom) and guest bedroom to make a larger studio...which I will outgrow in about 5 years? Yes, don't worry, we do have a bedroom on the south side of the house. (cheaper)
Or do we build a studio (hamster house) in the back? More expensive.
If you have built your own let me know. Thanks Sam for all your in depth info.


Double "D" said...

Hi b,
This is a great solution! Your ability to read light always amazes me. I could use that sense when painting outside.

Studio, permanent large areas for photographing paintings, same for matting and framing a reading area, a place for day dreams and critique paintings. Painting area large enough to walk around, step back and see the big picture. I think you need an area about 30 x 60 feet.

Donna T said...

Great tips - Thanks Loriann. Thanks for your words on abstract design yesterday too. You are doing the most gorgeous skies!

Caroline said...

Hi Loriann, I have heard from other artists that having a separate studio away from the house in the garden is much better. You are not so tempted to put a laundry wash on or make another cup of tea! you really get the feeling you are away to work in a separate studio.

loriann said...

Hey PB, 30x60..heehee that is probably my entire back yard! Great studio ideas..I 'll let you know what happens.
Thanks about the light!

Hi Donna, Glad you liked the abstract design thoughts. And thank you about the skies!

Hi Caroline, You make some good point about the studio.Thanks!

Barbara said...

Love the color in this one!

loriann said...

Thanks Barbara!

Anonymous said...

Hi Loriann,
You have posted some very important points to remember when working en plein air. Quite right that working from memory is more successful if you work outdoors. I cannot quite decide how I feel about this particular painting. Perhaps the sky is too yellow?? That of course is my subjective opinion. Once again you have captured the feel of the place. You have a wonderful ability to relate to the landscape and make it your own. Regarding your studio choices: combining rooms is less expensive BUT it has to be so that if you sell the house you can quickly convert the rooms back to their original use. Prospective buyers do not want to think that this is something that they will have to do. The upside is that you will have a larger space than you have it is cheaper and you do not have to go outside to get to your studio. An added bonus is that the bathroom is just down the hall. If you build an outdoor structure it is more expensive and you will have to deal with permits, contractors etc. The upside is that if build a permanent outdoor structure it give will you a separate defined space for your art. The studio becomes a destination to go to. Depending on your final choice it could add to the value of your home but it could increase your property taxes. There are the local building codes to take into account which can effect the final outcome. While having an in-house studio makes it very easy to just walk into the studio there is no physical separation from the house and the potential distractions within .I guess that it depends on how much each option costs and how long you are planning to stay in your present home.


Karen E. Lewis said...


Thanks as always for your thoughts.

A very good friend moved closer to downtown. She converted the top of her garage to a studio. It is a lovely, large space. To save money, she didn't put in a bathroom.

She loves it, because it is away from the house, and her husband (retired) doesn't interrupt her there. I can hardly stand to visit and paint with her, because there is no place to wash up. This is a serious omission, and I urge you not to make it. You NEED water, preferably hot and cold, and a toilet. This adds considerably to the expense, but without it you are always running back to the house for something.


Lisa Le Quelenec said...

I think I may need to get those seven steps tattooed, it's exactly what I need...no.1 step away from the pencil..no.2 CONCEPT! ...

Congratulations on getting back to teaching so soon, I bet your students were very pleased to have you back. Great news.

Pam Holnback said...

This one jumped right out at me. Great value/color in the sky. I read and reread the list. Says it all! My studio used to be the dining room. It used to be big enough! I like having it in the house. I like being able to look at and critique each piece whenever I want.

Jala Pfaff said...

What a beauty!!

We renovated a studio and put in skylights. Bad idea. The sun moves over all day long and changes the light too much.

Anonymous said...

It’s amazing what we think we need and what we can actually do without. The luxuries of having running hot and cold water, a loo, north light etc…are just that…luxuries and if you want them you’ll have to pay for them.
I have a very small studio space indoors (the entire room is 9x12ftish) which houses my computer, art library, a drafting table.... room for business filing and a large format scanner and printer for production work. Some storage units for misc art products etc. The cottage is too ancient to attach shelves to walls, so my furniture is freestanding pine furniture. My drafting table doubles as a desk sometimes when catching up on the business side of art, as well as a place I mount and frame on. I don't have an easel set up in this space all the time, but have a folding metal one if I need to work upright. I don’t hoard mat/mounts and frames like I used too…..or art books...... or prints and greeting card stock. If I get an order for a gallery stock up….I deal with it then and there.... and then go into production mode for a couple of weeks.
I had a lovely large tiled floor, well lit studio in my home in Key West, Florida with an adjoining bathroom with floor to ceiling bookcases etc…..I didn’t realise how very lucky I was, but did tend to hoard more equipment and supplies than I do now.
Having to downsize now I am back in the UK, I have my indoor space for watercolour painting and the business side of art, and a garden summer house (which is not heated so I can’t use it in the winter…or store materials in it in the colder months) for summer use. Consequently I only paint in oil or pastel in the summer as I can’t stand the fumes and dust in the house. It would be nice to be financially better off and have a large studio equipped with up to date amenities, but for me quirky spaces and making ‘do’ is all part of being an artist. If it were an easy path, everyone would 'be an artist,' right? I would consider health issues like fumes, dust etc…. if you spend a penny a lot then it might be important to be near a loo…if you use water for acrylics or watercolour you should be close to running water. Just practical things, really. …but what ever you end up doing, I suspect that you will think you need way more than you actually do!!
Love your words above ....much food for thought.....

Adam Cope said...

hi loriann - love yr pastels:-)

a studio inside yr house is heatable & dry. where do you store yr works on paper? they need to be dry. storage is the big consumer of space.

an outside studio is easier for loading up the car with plein air gear.

why not just have a sort of dirty shack outside where you dump stuff & get all dirty, smelly & dusty (don't tell everyone about this tho' ;-).... just a little wooden shed would do. and a clean workspace inside?

loriann said...

Hi NJ,
I am glad that the points seem useful to you. They are the things I force myself to think about so why not share them. As for memory work and plein air, they go hand in hand. To me both are ESSENTIAL....but then again I am biased.
Right now I am leaning towards having a separate building if we can manage it financially. As my paintings continue to grow in size and believe me I have big plans..it seems so important to have the big space.
Time will tell!
Thanks for your comment!

Hi Karen, Yes these are ideas I am thinking about. Water (hot and cold) is essential....a toilet may not be (for me). Weighing the options and costs is what it is about. I appreciate your thoughts one this.

Hi Lisa,
Tattooed, eh? I would like to see that! Yes it was good to get back to teaching...I have never had so many hugs in one day! Nice.

Hi Pam,
Yes I too have had my studio in my home for as long as I can remember. I have loved it. Now I have new needs and am tending to the "separate studio" although it can be all about cost. Thanks for your input!

loriann said...

Hi Jala,
Glad I read your comment. My plan includes skylights. I wonder if the shade in the space where I want to place the studio would make the sun less irregular. Where is your studio? Is it fully exposed?

Hi Maggie,
Sounds like you have experienced a great variety of studio spaces. And yes you are right we always have to "make do." For me I think it is time to make it a priority in a new way. As my paintings get bigger and bigger in size it becomes harder to manage my space.One time I almost fell down the stairs as I backed up absent-mindedly out the studio down the hallway, all the time looking thru the studio door starring at my big painting!!!!!
Long ago when I purchased my huge flat file it saved me in a new way...I think it's time for the full monty!

Hi Adam, Thanks about my pastels...I continue to aim towards making my my oils be more consistent with my pastels. I appreciate your comment and ideas. Let me answer some of your questions:
As for storage I have a huge flat file where finished pastels are stored in tracing paper pads. Each pad is labeled by date. That works!
As for plein air, my car always is equipped my the plein air stuff. I only take it out to paint or travel with it. It is like another studio. So I never have to worry about in and out. I know I am fortunate about that. cheerio for now!

Jala Pfaff said...

Hi Loriann,
The studio is exposed on every side except the east side. We put in three skylights and if you work in there during the day, you have to work around the sunbeams and it can get rather annoying!

Jala Pfaff said...

P.S. I think there are some skylights that you can get covers for, so that might be an option.

loriann said...

Thanks for your input Jala!