Thursday, March 29, 2012
Keeping It Real
If truth be told, I have a love/hate relationship with plein-aire painting. It's kinda like how I feel fixing a flat tire: If I do it right, everything will be OK, but I'd rather not have to have a flat to begin with. Don't get me wrong, every once in a while, I saddle up my old french easel and head out into the great outdoors and have a go at it. And surprisingly, I usually enjoy myself. Go figure...
But I have noticed something about plein-aire paintings that I have seen in galleries or group shows, and that is they all seem to say, "Look at me! Look at me! I'm a Plein-Aire Painting! Can't you tell by my non-existent edges, and clumps of broken color? Just like Monet! And that crooked box thing? It's my impression of a house!" (Between you and me, even when I squint and look over my shoulder at an angle, my first "impression" of a house is that it has straight lines. Just sayin'). In other words, there is a bit of sameness that one sees in paintings done out-of doors; an expectation of how plein-aire is supposed to look. It's my own personal taste I admit, but I'd rather a painting say "What" instead of "How" if you know what I mean. Then again, I'd be lying if I said that I haven't fallen into that trap myself once or twice. Like with this:
I am at heart a studio painter. Even more: I'm a studio Landscape painter. Now, there are those who will tell you that being a studio landscape painter is like being a virtuoso on the air guitar. Whatever. I like the familiarity of my work space. But that doesn't mean I don't like the authenticity that painting from direct observation brings. I just approach it in a different way.
I have been known to grab a studio piece and go outside and paint a passage from life. Skies mostly. It doesn't matter what or where my subject is, I can paint a sky from life just by stepping out of my studio door. Kinda like what I did with this:
Even though this is my own damn back yard, for goodness sakes, I painted it in the studio. I didn't like what I had for a sky though-- which was a plain old boring blue. So I set this up outside and painted these clouds and sky from life.
Studio pieces aren't the only ones to get this treatment. Check out this painting from last fall:
This painting was actually done plein-aire, even though the location is miles away from where I live, the sky was done one morning from my driveway.
But I'm also not against fixing a painting in the studio that I've started on location.
I did a plein-aire painting of a blueberry field last summer that I've never been completely in love with. It always seemed half done to me. As a plein-aire, maybe it worked, but I wanted a little more finish, so a few days ago I grabbed it and went over every bit of it in the studio. I didn't really re-paint the scene, but I carried what was there a little farther. Here's where it was after three days of painting on location last summer:
And here it is this week:
Tune in next week to see how it will look then...
All I'm saying is that I want my paintings to have a similar style and "feel", and to me it matters not how I accomplish that-- whether I paint it all out doors plein-aire, or all inside the studio, or a combination of both.
I'm just trying to keep 'em real.