|Point Lobos, oil, 12 x 16. All works by Matt Smith.|
Have you ever had a moment where you’ve stumbled on something unexpected and you think to yourself, “What a find!” That was so me a few days ago. I read an amazing Q&A that one of our editors, Allison Malafronte, had with plein air artist Matt Smith. Smith is a top plein air painter, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share his words of wisdom with you on his palette choices, painting intense light effects, and the landscape and plein air artists that have inspired him.
Smith's insights into plein air painting inspired us at Artist Daily to create our latest free eBook, Plein Air Painting Techniques: 18 Tips for Outdoor Painting from Artist Daily. In it, you'll find instruction on plein air landscape painting with oils and watercolors, how to use your camera to find the perfect composition, and painting water convincingly. Enjoy!
Allison Malafronte: Does your approach to plein air painting stay the same for the varied landscapes you paint?
Matt Smith: My interest in painting the Sonoran desert comes from my connection to this landscape. I grew up here, and have spent countless hours roaming and studying the desert. Even though the locations can be quite varied, my approach to painting remains the same. My palette and process do no change with location.
AM: As an instructor what tenets/topics do you focus on in your plein air workshops?
MS: My main focus when teaching any workshop is on the fundamentals. When I run into a problem while painting, I can usually trace it back to a lack of attention with one of the basics—drawing, values, design, and color—so it's only natural that I concentrate on this when teaching. I also emphasize the importance of working from life and developing a personal vision and technique.
AM: In almost every outdoor painting workshop I’ve attended you are often referred to as an artist who has really achieved an understanding of light in the landscape. Where did this come from?
|Tonto Color, oil, 12 x 16.|
MS: While growing up in Arizona, I had the opportunity to study the effects of particularly intense sunlight on the desert landscape. This has been a great learning experience for me in understanding natural light. For instance, I have found when trying to capture the effects of intense sunlight, it's often more important to focus on what's happening in the shadows than in the highlights. The stronger the light source, the more reflected light you will see in the shadows, so it's important for students to capture that effect.
AM: What plein air painters or landscape artists of the past and present do you admire?
MS: It is critically important to be influenced by as many artists as possible. Numerous influences will contribute to a more personal style. There seems to be an emphasis by many younger artists to imitate a particular artist's style. The problem with this is that such a painter will often become a second-rate version of the artist they are imitating. When one is influenced by a variety of artists, there is a tendency to pull the most interesting aspects from that variety of work, and then apply it to his or her own work. Many have influenced my work over the years, including William Herbert Dunton, Edgar Payne, Maynard Dixon, Ogden Pleissner, Carl Rungius, and Friedrich Wilhelm Kuhnert. Contemporary influences include James Reynolds, Clyde Aspevig, Len Chmiel, Michael Lynch, Skip Whitcomb, and T. Allen Lawson.
For more with Matt Smith, read the entire interview here. And don't forget to download your copy of our latest free eBook: Plein Air Painting Techniques: 18 Tips for Outdoor Painting from Artist Daily.