Friday, November 10, 2017

Dynamic Plein Air Sketching

I like to fly by the seat of my pants. Without a thumbnail sketch or drawing preparation, I usually hit my canvas or board with some wild colors when painting en plein air. I might mark the center and approximate the Golden Mean before beginning. One or two construction lines if I'm feeling like it.

I experimented the other day with a value sketch. I grabbed a gessoed bristol sheet taped to a clipboard and some drawing supplies. My cellphone was hidden in the pocket of my jeans. And my wild paints remained at home.

I wandered (carefully, vipers everywhere) through my beautiful forest, anticipating the golden sunlight moving rapidly from one plant to the next. Sunlight moves quick in the wooded wetlands, something most people will never see. Even plein artists might be surprised; the light moves so fast that you can't paint it at the moment you see it. You have to rely on memory and/or take a photo.

The entire forest was backlit as far as I could see. Green leaves became citrine, emerald and lemon. Scarlet and purple foliage glowed amber and ruby. Bedazzlement. No wonder I love fall so much.

Then I saw my focal point. A forest plant embraced by a dark pine sparkled as if lit from within. I took a photo and went to work with a mechanical pencil. I added the darks with a 6B. I had a pretty darn good value sketch when finished, considering the furious pace.

When I had returned home, I used burnt umber watercolor and white gouache to complete a value plan. Once dry, I painted into the sketch with a limited oil palette, one I use for classical portraits plus two extra colors.

The color study turned out excellent and I received a lot of good feedback from Facebook friends and in art forums.

Color Study: "Sunlit Wetlands"
6 x  8

My next step is to complete a larger painting from this little study but using my "wild" colors, my impressionist palette. I've learned to see in full color. It's almost like seeing pixels at times. No LSD has been conumed, thanks.

Right. A classical palette is not for this fly-by-her-seat-of-her-pants-girl. What classical work has taught me, however, is to work within a smaller range of colors (you know, color schemes) for a particular painting for a more pleasing look. And I have always loved chiaroscuro, intense dark versus light, so that is a no-brainer.

Will I continue with these value sketches? We'll see how my larger painting of "Sunlit Wetlands" turns out. If I can keep it loose and fresh, yes I will continue with the value sketches (in boring colors--well, maybe not).

It is likely, I will create new paintings inspired by my little sketches. That makes them jewels in and of themselves. After all, no photo can ever capture what I see or what I dream.

Next: My latest painting, "Going Home"

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