Friday, July 31, 2015

Tactical decisions...

Sometimes when painting on location you get excited (that's a good thing - it's why we go out there with the heat and the bugs). That passion SHOULD inform your decisions. At the same time you have to stay cool (at least mentally). "Tactics" can cloud your initial strategy (strategy here defined as principals of color, composition, etc. that you as a painter bring to the motif). Sometimes those on the fly decisions pay off but sometimes you crash and burn. Especially with the changing light. Below is an example that barely accomplished its "mission " but in post-op review could have been more successful.
This is the entrance to the rock garden at Bentonsport. First I'll list what went right (or so I think). You're probably going to have to click or pinch this image bigger.
1. The photo makes clear that all the greens in the vicinity were nearly identical. I saw the background trees were darker and bluer when I focused on the shrub by the wall and saw them in my peripheral vision.
2. I saw the shadows on the wall were lighter and more transparent than the camera saw them. In fact some of the nice cast shadows on the wall were gone when I took this photo. That's worth remembering when you're working from photos in the studio come February.
3. I bumped up the pink flowers because they relieve all that green with their complimentary hue.

Now for what could have been done BETTER:
1. The space at bottom and either side could have been more generous. A nice "welcome mat" of space to walk in on so to speak. This fault would be further exacerbated with another 1/4" disappearing behind the frame.
2. The grass could have been pushed lighter and duller  - even toward yellow ochre. That would have enhanced the sense of a bright day. A brighter highlight on the top of the wall would do that too.
3. The green variations between the main shrub, the foliage of the flowers and the foliage just behind the wall's right edge could be greater. The right side foliage especially could have benefited from being a lighter, yellow green. If you want to see this sort of thing well done check out some of Carlene Dingman's recent blog posts at right.
4. On the whole it may be worth redoing as it's a charming spot. The glory of plein air is that immediate response to a situation you can't gin up from a photo...but you have to stay cool "under fire" too.

Next week (yikes...August already!) I'll be at the Mineral Point Wisconsin paint out - a 4 day event I've not done before but I have visited the town and it's pretty cool. I'll need to keep these points in mind as I paint. Hoping to post from the event as the campsite I'm staying at supposedly has wifi, so stay tuned.


  1. Enjoyed the post, lots for great information there. Looking forward to your posts from the Mineral Point. Are you doing the night painting? Thanks for the plug.

  2. Yeah, this will be the first time I've tried a nocturne event. I gather you and Jessica are getting expert at this - I've never used anything but street light.