Monday, February 4, 2013

Touching Up A Plein Air Piece

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.


jackie turner said...

An artist has the ability to look at the ordinary and non-descript and paint something quite beautiful. I need to learn to appreciate and look for the beauty that surrounds me. Thank you for painting on this farm. It's through your work that I am able to see the beauty of this wonderful piece of land.

René PleinAir said...

I think Plein Air painting is all about making choices, choices what's really there what way you can look at it and what to leave out. You as a artist have the obligation to do that otherwise your nothing better than a ordinary camera. Funny about tweaking, I been reading some books lately cause to a frozen shoulder and one of them was from Ron Ransons "Oils" with Trevor Chamberlain. Ron tells that Trevor looks at his work in the studio about one hour . During this time he considers it very critically and makes any refinements before he deems it finished. I believe he's right about this, when painting on side you tend to getting into a flow and could run into some blindness about obvious things such as faces in funny places. A good tweak Bill in a complex painting anyway. Well worth it!

Bill Guffey said...

Thank you, Jackie. Your farm is a special place. You should think about taking a class.

Bill Guffey said...

Thanks Rene. It is very easy to miss mistakes while painting in the field. And usually it's only after getting back to the study that I see problems.

pat said...

The first piece has a lot more energy...the second lost some of that...both are still fine, however.