I know there are purists out there that swear to never touch their plein air pieces once they finish on site. I am not one of them. I normally don't do much, if anything, to a painting I've completed outdoors, but sometimes there are issues that need to be addressed. The whole point of being a painter is create good art. If you create bad art and blame it on painting outside, maybe you need to stay in the studio. Just a thought.
Yesterday I painted on a cold and very windy day. I tromped through mud and a lot of cow manure and finally found a spot I liked, that I thought I could design into artistic satisfaction. This painting is smaller than most of my plein air work, at 12" x 9", but it took just as long as my normal 16" x 20 or 18" x 24". About 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
My subject was a tree with missing bark sitting next to a small stream. The stream is located down in a gully as it flows between steep banks on one side and a sloping hillside on the other. I stood on a narrow path used by cattle and carefully tried to keep my feet out of the large gifts they had left behind.
I approached this painting as I do almost every one. I tone the canvas to knock down the white and proceed to quickly sketch in the elements of the painting with a thinned dark color. Always looking to design from the information in front of me. I then move around the canvas adding color in what I hope is the appropriate spot and value.
The cold wind helped me finish up. When my toes get cold it can break my concentration, in my head I keep thinking, "Man! I wish my feet were warm. My fingers are cold and hurt. waaa...waaa...waa..." You get the idea. I didn't anticipate how cold it was going to be and didn't wear the right boots.
I'm posting before and after pics of the painting below. You will notice a slight color/temperature change in the pics due to photographing one outside and one in the studio.
Below is the painting as I left the location.
Below is the painting after touching up in the studio this morning.
One of the main differences you'll notice is the deletion of some of the ugly, quickly applied branches protruding from the subject tree. I also touched up the bark and peeled areas on the tree trunk, and added some moss to the tree and surrounding areas. I cleaned up some background areas and worked the light against dark contrasts, all in an effort to make the tree the focal point and everything else supporting cast.
I hope this was informative and not too dreadfully boring for you. Thanks for reading my blog, I appreciate it very much.