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Monday, May 04, 2015

My Favorite Plein Air Tip

'Make a Wish'            5x7           pastel   plein air         ©Karen Margulis
painting available $95
 I have many tips for making plein air painting with pastels fun. But there is one thing that helps me truly take the pressure off and enjoy the process. It begins with a favorite quote.

"Even in front of Nature one must compose"  Edgar Degas

Of course we must. But so often we don't. I'll go out on location and paint something exactly as I see it. I put in every tree and every fence post....even if these things don't result in the best composition. I can be too literal to the scene. I fail to interpret how I feel about the place and instead try to copy the place. (like we often do with photos)

Sometimes that is OK. If you are trying to record colors and detail then being literal gives you a lot of useful information to take back to the studio to edit and use for future paintings.

But more often for me the plein air experience is all about capturing fleeting moments. I don't want to worry about being perfectly true to the scene. I want to make it my own. I love the quote from Degas. He reminds us that everything in nature is not always arranged in the best possible composition. It is OK to take out trees and move mountains. We must use the elements before us and compose them into the most compelling arrangement.

Take today's painting. It is actually an older but favorite plein air painting of mine. I did it at a Richard McKInley workshop a few years ago. I remember being worn put from a day painting in the sun and wind. I sat down in the tall autumn grass for a break. I spotted a few spent dandelion puffs and got excited. This is my truth! I had to paint them but I needed to compose them. I wanted to arrange them in a more lyrical composition. I wanted to add more color. So I did!

Here I am in Hope Valley, tired after a long day of painting


mary maxam said...

Love the painting and this hugely important tip! What a great quote and reminder.

robertsloan2art said...

Thank you for a lesson just in time! I'm going out tomorrow and will have a chance to paint in my favorite garden again. I get overwhelmed by it and it's always full of some of my favorite flowers, but how they're laid out makes it hard to get a good painting. So I often do flower studies in water media.

A friend just gifted me with a small, compact set of 36 Holbein half sticks, even tinier than my Rembrandt box. I want to try it out tomorrow and this article reminds me that I don't need to stick to how the garden has them laid out. I could move around and put the iris in among the snapdragons even if the one that's there isn't blooming sort of thing. Rearrange all of it for better composition.

This is awesome and I love the painting. Thanks for helping me break away from the literal again! Art is visual fiction! I have photos of the garden for an actual record although my colors are sometimes truer - but if it looks better I can heighten them. Or bring something back in bloom that was blooming last time. Anything I want!

Gloria J Zucaro said...

a beautiful painting and a great tip.

Melle Ferre said...

Delightful! I have been really fascinated by some lovely yellow flowers along the roadside here lately that have the most charming quality as if bobbing there heads in the breeze. And today they are surrounded by purple and white clovers and all shades of grasses. I didn't have time to stop and paint but I was able to get a look at an exit...dandelions! In my mind, they are now and forever onwards Wildflowers.