Saturday, January 22, 2011


Painting from life gives you many wonderful elements that you would never envision sitting in your studio. There are unexpected elements of light, color and composition that can inspire successful paintings. Painting from life also uses different art skills so don‘t be discouraged the first times you try it.
Painting outdoors can also be a challenge. There is so much in front of you and it can be difficult to decide what to paint. Even if you have chosen your subject and it is in the distance look up close and find something interesting as a secondary element. Once the close up element is beginning to take shape you have a strong element to work from as you proceed with the rest of the painting. Establish some dark values early to help gauge the other values in the painting.
Use a viewfinder or two L shapes pieces of matte board. I use an old matte that is cut at two opposite corners. This will help you choose whether the painting format is vertical or horizontal and which elements to include.
Don’t be afraid to rearrange the scene in front of you. Replace a tree with a more interesting one from out of your chosen area. Change the size of an element or the color of a bloom. Remember that you are creating a painting and not copying nature. Look at your painting as it progresses and decide what it needs to make it a better painting. Then look at the vista in front of you and find what fits that need.
As the day progresses and the sun moves so does your light. You have to decide whether you are going to remember the early light and paint that or paint in anticipation of where the light is going to be as you complete your day of painting. I start early in the morning and draw in my subject. Since I work in watercolor any elements of perspective and proportion have to be worked out in the drawing because they are difficult or impossible to fix later. So I choose to draw in anticipation of where the light will be and paint the light at its most interesting point.

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