A major goal for this year is to become more confident with plein air. That means LOTS of plein air starts. I am finally getting outside a couple of times a week. Weather is still cool, days are short and mostly cloudy and dark. It is the earliest in the season that I have tried. Two hours would be max time for me; coffee-bladder plus cold. Which is actually good because it forces me to think and act quickly and limit my work to starts.
I have decided to stick with acrylics for the next month or so. With acrylics I generally make two or three or more starts per outing. I usually look around, make a few to many thumbnail sketches of what I think might work then sketch onto the panels and usually choose different formats and size for each. Because it is slow drying this time of year I usually come with panels prepared with some ( usually dark and warm) under painting. During the warm season I usually roughly draw in the large shapes then develop the under-painting with transparent darks and use my colour shaper to pick out a value plan.
Anyway, I was out a few days ago. It was dull, dark and cool. Set up with the intent to see if I could just capture the feel of the day over the local waters. Made four starts looking at different viewpoints. Total time just over two hours.
|Like working off the tail gate
I have gotten into the habit of making two or more starts at the same time to allow the acrylics to dry. I work on one for a bit then move the another while the first dries. Also forces me to think and work quickly which generally makes for a more simplified and stronger statement.
|8x10 and I think you can see the red iron oxide underpainting in the two bottom.
So I don't think too much about them. Just put the sketch on linen and go home. That's important and a good reason to make more than one and to not have time to tinker.
Once home they go into a frame - no matter what I might think about them - and I spend a bit of time looking and considering - WHAT IF ?? . I use my critique form and ask my self the questions - starting with the big ones first: is there a dominant colour, dominant value, centre of interest, etc etc
I saw something in this group that I liked - or at least enough to put more thought into them. They needed more drama and a stronger center of interest to draw the eye.
And this is where the WHAT IF and IMAGINATION comes in. I don't use a photo reference but simply think of what would make it stand alone as an interesting piece- nothing to do with what I saw when I made the sketch. Its not about being correct - but about making it attractive and interesting ( and it also needs to "read" considering the subject). Because it is acrylic I can start to play and go back and forth, often glazing with a dark transparent or scumbling with a opaque.
I won't go into details but I played with the overall value pattern in all of these. Using a partial or complete glazing to drop the value down - think it was Golden Payes Gray Liquid - then pulled up some contrasts with opaques. Tried to let some underpainting peek though where possible. I also saw that I needed, or thought I did, something to complete the full value range and to draw the eye. I chose to put sails in the distance - very simple with single stroke. But what was fun was that on the first I splashed spots of thin titanium white and thought I had lost it. Then I thought, what the hell, they look like stars so I used my new handy Liquatex splash tool and added a variety of sizes and values. Strictly serendipity - but I liked it.
And that is my approach to trying to finish the plein air starts in the studio - sort of a thoughtful play and hope something my come of it. It might take days of looking at it before I have an ah haaaa moment and decide what to try.
|Starlight Sail Acrylic 8x10
|This one I decided to play with more drama by adding warms to the sky and land
These are very simple pieces. Not much to them - but they are fun to do and the more simple the statement often the stronger the piece.