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Monday, August 28, 2017

Keep Those Plein Air Duds!


'Gentle Beauty'             9x12        pastel         ©Karen Margulis
available $165
Texas is on my mind. As I putter around my studio packing for my weekend team workshop with Marsha Savage, my thoughts wander to the people of Texas. My prayers are with them as they go through Harvey and the aftermath.  I happened to come across one of my plein air studies from Texas as I was  packing my portfolio booklets. It somehow didn't get removed from the portfolio after my Texas workshop. I looked at it today and felt compelled to use it as inspiration form my daily painting.

The study which is below, is a quick 5x7 demo. It was done to illustrate my field study approach to a plein air outing. The goal for these studies is to work quickly and efficiently and to think of them as notes in a notebook. I want to capture the colors, values and mood I am experiencing. They don't always stand alone as a 'good' painting.  Most of the time they do not. Most of the time they could be considered DUDS.

5x7 plein air study
Today I looked at this dud and wondered what to do with it. It had decent bones so I could work on it to finish it. I hesitated. If I worked over it I would remove all of the good information that it contained. It was my response to the scene.....live and in person. Instead of covering up and trying to fix it I had a better idea.

using my thumbnail and study in the studio
I decided to use the study to inspire a larger painting done in the comfort of my studio. I happened to keep the value thumbnail so I would use both as the reference material for my painting. That and what is in my mind and my heart. I would not use any photos this time. I had enough information.

  • I began by blocking in the big shapes using the thumbnail as my guide. I selected colors that I felt would work well with the greens and blues that would be dominant in the painting.
  •  I used the same colors in the sky as in the study but changed the direction of marks to lead to the trees and flowers.
  • In the study the bluebonnets were mere suggestions of color. In the larger painting I enhanced them with a bit more definition.


The first layer.Choosing colors that will work with the local colors
 Plein Air Advice:
The lesson in this exercise is that plein air paintings are extremely valuable....even if they are duds! It is important not to be frustrated with your plein air efforts. Think of them as notes. Use them in the studio. The notes are more authentic than any photo that you take!

3 comments:

KAS said...

I tried plein air painting this summer and certainly came up with a dud. Thank you for helping me look at it in a new way!

Cynthie Hanks said...

Karen - Thanks so much for keeping my home state of Texas in your prayers. It is devastating. It will be years before people get rebuilt and some never will. We love our bluebonnets and celebrate every year as they emerge with their beautiful color. Your teaching is so wonderful and always right on. What a talent you have in both art and teaching. Love the painting. Thanks! Cynthie Hanks

Kitty Lyon said...

Thanks for this post! I also loved your idea of keeping the thumbnail with your color study!