A Landscape artist making art, in 2021
29 August 2021 (Amended 4 Sept)
I've decided to concentrate on my Plein Air painting activity for now. Big apologies, as the moment I decided this, the weather got all miserable. So, sorry, my fault!
Plein Air means "painting outside", on location. I've always worked from life, and think of myself as an 'observational artist'. I observe in person the actual scenes my art depicts. It's the way I was trained.
Too much studio, not enough Plein Air
I've drifted into spending more and more time in the studio over the years (without realising it, until recently reviewing my art).
Making prints is rather studio intensive, you see. I want to rebalance my art practice back to what it was originally. This is why I'm parking my printmaking, for now.
My art, including my prints, will improve by doing this – that's what my quest in life always is: being the best artist I can be.
It's my Pochade box I've neglected. Sketches are cool, but making full studies using paint on canvas panel, in the field, is where it's at. This is what I've drifted away from, because I needed to be in the studio carving lino blocks, mixing ink, and winding the press.
Painting from life makes better art
I don't copy photos you see. I believe you can always tell when an artist has simply translated a photo into paint, needing minimal artistic input, or skill.
There's a number of give‑aways when a painting is a copy of a photo. Some of the give‑aways are 'dead' black shadows, lens distortion, colour averaging, and detail uniformity.
Photos really aren't that great at capturing a scene (I know, and I love my cameras!).
When you're painting outdoors, the colours have not been filtered through an limited gamut sensor (they are all limited compared to our eyes), shadows aren't black (even the deep ones), and the subtleties of distant atmospherics and other lighting effects haven't been averaged out either.
Form, shape, overlaps and their edges, not always clear in a photo, can be understood when seen firsthand.
The resulting art is generally richer and more atmospheric than a photo – and therefore, a painting of a photo, too. So altogether, Plein Air studies are way more useful back in the studio.
Don't get me wrong, I use photo reference for my studio works. They're a reference however, I don't copy them – there's a big difference here. They simply augment my thumbnails, value sketches, colour studies and other Plein Air work.
A refresher refreshes!
So I'm taking myself back to basics a bit. It's good to do this, no matter how proficient and practiced you become.
I've set myself targets and I'm on a mission to regain what feels a bit rusty – I'm feeling out of practice with oils En Plein Air. Covid lockdowns eroded my confidence too, because I couldn't even go out with a sketchbook for far too much of the year.
It's so good to get back to my roots though, re‑establishing my process, returning to the landscape painter I've always been – hopefully, an improved one.