Step Back and See Your Victories–and Your Mistakes
Amidst all the sights, sounds, and smells that swirl around you when plein air painting, you have to remember to step back and assess your work and give a thought to how the painting is progressing. Plein air painters are at their best when they step back, figuratively and sometimes literally, and see what is going on with their work in comparison to the scene in front of them. En plein air, the atmosphere is always changing, and if you chase those transient moments sometimes it results in a piece of great outdoor painting, but sometimes you can overwork it, too.
Thomas Van Stein, an artist from Carpinteria, California is aware of this tendency when he is creating an outdoor painting, and when he is conducting plein air workshops. At a recent workshop, he helped a student, whose work is shown here, to step back and reassess her work on a few levels.
-You are pushing the color, which is great. But try for a little more variation around the warm masses to break it up. Texture can be your guide here too. Where you see movement or change think how you can capture that color and brushstrokes.
-Use a bigger brush and more paint in the foreground to bring that primary area into focus and create a bit of atmospheric perspective. Right now, the viewer drifts through the painting. There is no clear focus. Sky, sea, and sand are all portrayed with the same level of detail. Now is your opportunity to pick your focal point and zero in on it.
-The horizon line is a little hard; soften it slightly so it is a visual suggestion.
-Your breaking waves are nicely achieved. Your brushstrokes themselves also show confidence. Nice!
It All Starts With a Good Vantage Point
These kind of crucial insights can only take a moment to realize if we will only step back and visually evaluate what we are doing. This is true for an outdoor painting or a painting created in the studio. Don’t be afraid to give your work a critical eye — or a pat on the back. For more moments of plein-air clarity, consider getting Outdoor Artist, our latest magazine for all things plein air. Enjoy!